Past Gala Honorees
NF Forward’s Strength and Honor Award was established to recognize the exceptional courage and determination of individuals and families affected by NF. Each of our honoree’s stories is remarkable and unique, yet all highlight a confident mindset, an ambitious attitude, and a resolute refusal to allow NF to stand in their way. We invite you to meet them here and below.
Maddox Gibson is a fun-loving 5th grader with a big smile who loves Legos and wants to be a chef. But in 2017, Maddox was a 10 year-old in China who had been living in an orphanage his entire life. Complicating his life even more was a tumor on his optic nerve caused by NF that had grown out of control, resulting in loss of sight and significant disfigurement of his left eye.
Then a fateful moment for a family in North Carolina would change his life forever.
Aidan Fraser was dealt a pretty tough hand. At 15 months, he had his first major NF surgery. The NF tumor in his neck extends into his brainstem, down his back, into his lungs and down his left arm. He has undergone 20 major surgeries and been on five different chemotherapies in 17 years.
Yet, despite the magnitude of this challenges, Aidan is a video blogger, YouTube channel host, CTF staff member, and fervent NF trailblazer with an incredible story of exceptional resilience.
Adam & Neil Pearson
Adam Pearson is a socialite who loves spending time with his friends, traveling and educating himself about other cultures. He works closely with the BBC as a research journalist on subjects such as NF.
Neil Pearson enjoys being home with family and spends his recreational time at a British bowls club (a game equivalent to bocce ball). He works as a librarian for a medical library.
Adam and Neil are identical twin brothers with NF, but it has affected their lives in very different ways. The bond these brothers share is immeasurable, and their story is remarkable.
Jada Smoot & Teaqua Jacobs
Jada Smoot is a lively, sweet 11-year-old just starting middle school who likes to swim, bike and spend time with her friends. Her mother, Teaqua, is starting a new job with United Airlines and enjoys reading. Both share the love of their close-knit family.
Jada and Teaqua also share NF. Inherited from Teaqua’s father, their NF family history shows the multitude of ways this challenging disorder presents itself. With amazing spirit, Jada and Teaqua draw strength from each other to navigate these rocky waters.
Jada lost her valiant battle with NF on November 24, 2020.
We remember a life so beautifully lived and a heart so deeply loved.
Jeffrey Owen Hanson is an award-winning, philanthropic artist on a mission to change the world through art. Visually impaired since childhood from NF1 and an optic glioma (tumor), Jeff’s acrylic on canvas works employ bold color and heavily sculptured texture to create an unmistakable signature style.
Self-taught as an artist, Jeff first began painting while undergoing chemotherapy at age 12. Despite his limited vision, Jeff continues to create brilliant artwork – a sight for sore eyes, he calls it. The award-winning artist, who received national attention for raising $1 million for charity with his art by his 20th birthday, has today raised more than $2 million.
Jeff’s works hang in the homes of art collectors across the globe – including Sir Elton John, Warren E. Buffet and Susan Sarandon.
Jeff lost his courageous battle with NF on December 20, 2020.
His art helped change the world, and his memory is a treasure to us all.
Brianna Worden has faced unimaginable challenges since being diagnosed with NF as an infant. These obstacles have not stopped her from becoming a cheerleader, a photographer and Miss Teen New York International.
Here’s a glimpse of this exceptional young woman’s story from her Facebook page:
“My arm is different because of NF, but I’m proud of it. Because I have a disfigurement, it has given me the chance to meet so many people who have inspired me. Although I’ve had many issues with NF, I’m glad I have it. I’ve gotten to meet others just like me. Neurofibromatosis is who I am, it’s my life.”
It’s 2011. Renie and Philip Moss are on top of the world. They have fulfilling careers, a loving circle of family and friends, a strong faith, and two beautiful children, Philip Jr. and Helen. Then, in late 2011, Philip Jr. is diagnosed with NF1 – a diagnosis that will have implications far beyond anything they could have imagined for their sweet 6-year-old, changing the Moss family profoundly and forever.
The Moss family’s remarkable story is one of a family’s uncommon fight against NF.
What Victor Chukwueke has endured and conquered is living testimony to just how strong the human spirit can be when it exists within the soul of a human being for whom the words I can’t … I won’t … or I give up simply do not exist.
From his diagnosis of neurofibromatosis in a country with few medical resources to treat his disfiguring tumor, to his miraculous new life in America, Victor’s story touches to the core.
Victor’s story is heartwarming, compelling and stunning proof of the strength and potential within us all.