“Once we found out about our personal connection to cystic fibrosis, we knew that getting involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was something that we just felt called to do”
Photo source: Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette/John Sykes Jr.
When Anne and Mike Preston began their plans to start a family, they went to a doctor to run tests just as a precaution. Anne’s test results came back that she was a carrier of cystic fibrosis (CF), but she was told not to worry because her husband would have to be a carrier as well. The chances of both of them being carriers were 1 in 600. “But then you get that call” said Mike. They were that 1 in 600.
Despite being hit with the devastating news, the couple wondered how they could turn what was happening to them into something positive. It was then that they decided to channel their energy into raising awareness on CF through volunteer work for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “Once we found out about our personal connection to cystic fibrosis, we knew that getting involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation right away was something that we just felt called to do” said Anne.
The Prestons’ wanted to get involved and to make a difference in any way that they could. “Even if we may not have a child with cystic fibrosis right now, certainly it still means something very deep to us because someday we could” said Anne.
The ultimate power couple
Both born and raised in Florida, Anne and Mike met right after college. Anne was interviewing Mike’s boss for a news story, but she caught Mike’s eye and he was determined to stay in touch. It was not before long that the two were together.
Although they met in 2006, Anne and Mike did not get married until 8 years later. It took them a while to settle down due to their everchanging career transitions from state to state. Just a few months after they got married, the newlyweds were asked to move to Little Rock, Arkansas, where Mike would be appointed the position of Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. In March of 2015, the couple decided to make the state their new home. “In a matter of three months we got married, bought a home and moved to a state we had never been in,” said Mike.
Even though Anne had to quit her job in Florida as an anchor, she did not give up the occupation. Initially, she sought out any openings of anchor positions at local new stations, but then she came across a company called The Media Gateway. Now a part of their team, Anne does 6 different broadcasts on a daily basis in 4 different markets out of a Little Rock-based production studio.
Almost immediately after moving to Little Rock, the duo got involved in charity work. Anne served on the advisory council for the Arkansas Woman of Inspiration fundraiser for the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas. She also served as co-chairman of the 2017 Woman of Inspiration Gala and volunteers with Easter Seals.
The Prestons’ time and effort devoted to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation became especially rewarding. They threw themselves in its 2018 activities, including the Great Strides walk and the Taste of the Finest fundraiser. However, it was not until they were invited to be honorees for the Breath of Life Gala, hosted by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, that organizers of the event learned the deep and personal connection that drove Anne and Mike to the cause.
Stirring up a passion within
Now 8 months pregnant, the Prestons’ are expecting a baby boy in January of 2019, who has a 25% chance of being born with CF. “To say that we’ve had a hard time getting pregnant would be an understatement. We tried very hard on our own” said Anne.
The couple had been given a grim outlook on their chances of conceiving and decided to pursue in vitro for a year. They were getting ready to start a final round of treatment when Anne found out that she was with child. “I felt like we put science aside and put our faith in God. We don’t know if this child has cystic fibrosis or not, but I truly believe he was sent to us and was meant to be our child and we just can’t wait to love on him whether he is a healthy carrier, not affected at all, or has cystic fibrosis” she said.
Anne stressed that raising funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has been remarkably rewarding for both her and her husband. “I’m so happy to say we’ve already raised a record amount of money for the Breath of Life Gala, and so much so that we sold out the event months ago and had to move to a larger venue” she said. She is also driven by the lives of individuals she has met who are living with the disease – individuals who have given her and Mike a glimpse into what their son’s life could look like if he is faced with that fate.
A journey of hope toward a brighter future, one step at a time
On November 3rd of 2018 at the Wally Allen Ballroom of the Statehouse Convention Center, Anne and Mike were honored with the Breath of Life Award in recognition of their remarkable contributions to the foundation and their leadership within the CF community. The Gala broke records, raising over $282,000 and getting that much closer to making CF stand for ‘cure found’.
Mike stated that being involved in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has given him and his wife a lot of comfort and awareness that there are other individuals out in the world who are living and thriving with CF thanks to the medical advances pursued by the Foundation. “If there’s anything we can learn from this, it’s let’s teach more people about this disease and how they can help -- and hopefully one day it’ll lead to a cure” he said.
Although the Prestons’ will not be able to determine whether their son will have CF until after he is born, they prefer to remain positive in that their baby has a 75% chance of being born healthy and unaffected. And they strongly believe that there will be a cure for the disease in their and their son’s lifetimes.
In the meantime, Anne is trying the enjoy her pregnancy, as it is something that she and her husband had prayed for a long time.