About NF Forward

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 eradicate NF by funding groundbreaking, cutting-edge NF research. NF Forward strives to raise awareness about NF among a wide range of individuals and invite their support of this innovative vision.

NF Forward’s signature event is the beNeFit, a major gala held at TCF Center in downtown Detroit every November. Since 2013, beNeFits I-VIII raised over $37 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 twelve 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 nine outstanding researchers pursues the most promising strategies.
  2. Supporting innovative work of NF organizations such as the Children’s Tumor Foundation, a 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 & Officers

Jennifer Gilbert

President and Board Member

Matt Rizik

Secretary, Treasurer, and Board Member

Meet The Team

Kayleigh Roy

Director

Maria Cairo

Program Manager

Mar Paricio Sunyer

Grants and Operations Manager

Kyle Wright

Philanthropic Intern

Kayleigh Roy

Director

Kayleigh has been with the NF Forward Team for the past four beNeFits wearing a number of different hats from revenue management to database architecture. These days she’s captain of the NF Forward ship steering towards what is sure to be the most successful fundraiser yet! In addition to being able to cite almost any piece of donor information by memory, she also has a strong working knowledge of Detroit’s restaurant scene and can be found out and about as soon as the day’s work is done. Her favorite NFF moment each year is the joy of entering the full transformed ballroom for the first time on beNeFit day and seeing a year’s worth of work come to life!

Maria Cairo

Program Manager

Maria graduated from Central Michigan University where she majored in Broadcast & Cinematic Arts and Journalism. She started working for the Family of Companies in 2011 and joined NF Forward when it was formed by the Gilberts in 2017. She is passionate about helping others and looks forward to the day a cure is found for NF. Maria is happiest when she is spending time with her daughter, Cubella, and her family.

Mar Paricio Sunyer

Grants and Operations Manager

Mar graduated from Clemson University (Go Tigers!) and joined the team in 2019. Her favorite memory with NFF was beNeFit VII when Aidan Fraser received the Strength and Honor award. Since she joined the team, she has worked on all things gala, grants, operations, and social media. If you ever need her, you can find her reading a book with a glass of wine—fun fact: Mar was born in Barcelona, Spain, and can fluently speak three languages.

Kyle Wright

Philanthropic Intern

Kyle is a current student at Central Michigan University (Fire Up Chips) where he is entering his final semester as a senior this fall. He will graduate with a double major in political science and public and nonprofit administration. Kyle was brought onto the team as a summer and fall intern to assist with the preparation and execution of the beNeFit IX Gala, and to aid in the daily operations of NF Forward. When you don’t see him at work with our organization you can catch him serving as an elected School Board Trustee for the Taylor School District. A fun fact about him is that he loves wine and art and has begun collecting both as a hobby.

About NF Forward