Who We Are

Dan and Jennifer Gilbert

Dan and Jennifer Gilbert have been passionate advocates in the fight to end NF since their oldest son, Nicolas, was born with NF1. They have been long-time supporters of NF research initiatives at the Children’s Tumor Foundation, Children’s National Health System and the University of Alabama Birmingham. In 2015, they established the Gilbert Family Foundation to further advance their NF research efforts.

In 2017, the Gilberts established NF Forward, a nonprofit 501c3 organization. It shares a vision with the Gilbert Family Foundation to fund groundbreaking, cutting-edge NF research. NF Forward provides a vehicle for a wide range of individuals to support this innovative vision. 

NF Forward’s signature event is the beNeFit, a major gala held at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit every November. Since 2013, beNeFits I-VI raised over $25 million for NF research and attracted more than 1,700 supporters annually to join the fight to end NF. 

What We Do

NF Forward funds NF research with audacious, high-reaching goals to bring us closer to a cure for NF. NF Forward focuses on three major areas:

  1. Co-funding pioneering research alongside the Gilbert Family Foundation. Projects include:
    • Vision Restoration Initiative – Inspired by Nick’s loss of vision as a result of an optic nerve tumor caused by his NF, a consortium of 12 top researchers works to regenerate the optic nerve and develop first-in-kind vision restoration therapies.
    • Gene Therapy Initiative – Since NF is a genetic disease, the search for a ‘cure’ will focus on replacing, repairing or otherwise addressing the mutated gene.  A network of outstanding researchers pursues the most promising strategies.
  2. Supporting innovative work of NF organizations such as the Children’s Tumor Foundation, the national organization funding broad-based NF research and advocating for the NF community.
  3. Fostering the creation of critical research tools needed to advance breakthrough science.

NF Forward accepts applications for support by invitation only.

Board of Directors and Officers


NF Forward Team

Joyce Keller, Executive DirectorJoyceKeller@NFForwardDetroit.org ~ 313-202-6606

Michael Walch, Assistant to the Director MichaelWalch@NFForwardDetroit.org ~ 313-407-5347

Maria Cairo, Project Manager, PhilanthropyMariaCairo@NFForwardDetroit.org ~ 313-373-3977, Option 1

Kayleigh Roy, Philanthropic Accounting SpecialistKayleighRoy@NFForwardDetroit.org ~ 313-373-3977, Option 2