GLEN ELLYN – Glenbard West High School senior Maddi Bertrand has dreams of someday becoming a marine biologist or dolphin trainer.
"I've always loved animals, and I've just always had a heart for dolphins and sea life," the Glen Ellyn resident said.
Those dreams are being put on hold, however, because she needs a double lung transplant. Bertrand was born with cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.
To help Bertrand and her family, organizers have put together the Breath of Life concert fundraiser, which will be at 7 p.m. June 2 at Barrows Auditorium inside Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center, 500 College Ave., Wheaton. The concert will feature the Christian band Citizen Way, which formed in 2004 at Judson University in Elgin.
"We just want this night to be a night of hope and celebration and sharing good news," said Bertrand's mother, Linda. "Then whatever else comes of it is a bonus. People in the community have already been so generous. We've been blown away by the generosity of this community."
Linda Bertrand contacted Citizen Way lead singer Ben Calhoun about performing at the concert.
"He had a friend in high school who got really sick and passed away from cystic fibrosis," she said. "So he said he would help us."
Calhoun previously performed at two events Maddi Bertrand's family held to raise money for cystic fibrosis research. Bertrand has been advocating and raising money to find a cure for cystic fibrosis since she was a little girl, hosting her first event at 7 years old.
In 2014, she was the first child and cystic fibrosis patient to complete the Xtreme Hike: a one-day, 21-mile hike through the Manistee National Forest in Michigan to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Bertrand's mother and her brother, Zach, will participate in the hike this fall.
"We want to help them find a cure for cystic fibrosis," Linda Bertrand said. "We don't ever want anyone else to go through what Maddi's gone through in her lifetime. And they're making tremendous strides in finding a cure. They're so close."
Maddi Bertrand will be graduating May 25, and she recently received the Robert C. Stevens Memorial Scholarship. Stevens is a former Glenbard Township High School District 87 superintendent who died in 2001.
She is excited about her looming graduation.
"I've had a lot of fun times at West, [including] being involved with the band, especially marching band," Bertrand said. "And also theater. This year, I was part of the play, 'The Miracle Worker.' "
She plays the flute, which has helped to strengthen her lungs.
"When she was in elementary school, her pulmonologist recommended that she play the flute to help her," Linda Bertrand said. "With the condition her lungs are in now, she can't play for a very long time without needing to take more breaths."
Plans to attend Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais have been put on hold while Maddi Bertrand waits for her lung transplant. She already has been accepted to the school.
In the interim, she plans to attend the College of DuPage and get some of her general education requirements out of the way.
Lately, Bertrand has been working to get communities to increase the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products as part of the group Reality Illinois, the teen advisory panel to the DuPage County Health Department.
"Tobacco products are just so toxic and destructive to the body," she said.
While Bertrand is a bit nervous about her pending lung transplant, she knows it will improve the quality of her life.
"I just feel so limited right now," she said. "I'd rather have the transplant than live like this."
Bertrand hopes others who have been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis "stay strong."
"Never forget what's really important – your family and friends – and know that they are always there to love and support you," she said.
If you go
WHAT: Breath of Life concert fundraiser for Maddi Bertrand
WHEN: 7 p.m. June 2
WHERE: Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center, 500 College Ave., Wheaton
COST: $15 to $25