People Who Move Us: Melissa Yeager – Executive Director of Claire’s Place Foundation

Even when Melissa Yeager lost her daughter, Claire Wineland, to cystic fibrosis last year, Melissa never stopped fighting Claire’s fight. 

The outpouring of love and support came from all over the world when Claire’s Place Foundation Founder Claire Wineland passed away. At the same time, the foundation continued to receive grant requests from families with children living with cystic fibrosis (CF). At times, those requests for assistance have been overwhelming. As painful as it is to lose her dear Claire, Melissa Yeager works tirelessly to fulfill the needs of other families living with cystic fibrosis. Through the foundation, Melissa continues to uphold Claire’s legacy. 

Melissa Yeager Loves Making a Difference.

Melissa Yeager is the heart and driving force behind her daughter’s foundation. She has dedicated her life to her daughter’s cause. When Claire was just 13 years old, with her mother’s help, she founded Claire’s Place Foundation. As the Executive Director and Board Member of Claire’s Place Foundation, Melissa Yeager works diligently with the board of directors. She is responsible for the organization’s consistent achievement of upholding its mission and financial objectives. However, she says the most rewarding function of her job is reaching out and making a difference in the lives of families and children living with CF. 

Even in this incredibly difficult time, under Melissa’s leadership, the foundation has achieved huge accomplishments including raising over one million dollars to alleviate the financial stress families experience from extended hospital stays. Melissa single-handedly planned the foundation’s first fundraising gala and she collaborated on two feature films to raise awareness for CF.

In March, the major motion picture Five Feet Apart was released globally. Claire inspired filmmaker and director Justin Baldoni to make the film. Justin and Claire’s friendship developed from her work on CW’s My Last Days. Justin witnessed Claire’s life with cystic fibrosis. He learned about the unique complexities of the disease, inspiring him to make a movie to elluminate the life-threatening disorder and raise awareness. Claire was also a consultant for the film, working closely with Justin and the actors to guide them on presenting CF accurately and interjecting her much needed humor into all aspects of the film. Of course the film industry had artistic license, but Claire was passionate about the film raising awareness for CF.

In Claire’s absence, Melissa stepped in to ensure the film fulfilled Claire’s expectations. Melissa was the face of Claire’s Place Foundation at the premiere, did press interviews and managed a team to build a following for the film. Five Feet Apart reached all corners of the earth, going well beyond Claire’s expectations. The film secured hundreds of top press placements such as the Today Show, as well as, igniting social media conversations across the globe about CF. 

Spreading Claire’s Message.

In September, on the anniversary of Claire’s passing, the documentary Claire, directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Nick Reed and Ryan Azevedo, was released exclusively on YouTube. The film tells the story of Claire through interviews and footage. It spotlights her unique outlook that inspires millions to find purpose and to live proudly. Nick and Ryan masterfully use their film to allow Claire’s message to resonate with the audience. 

Claire turned down many filmmakers before accepting the opportunity with Nick and Ryan. The difference was they were willing to do it the way Claire wanted. Melissa was by Claire’s side through the filming of the documentary. Although the filming was met with Claire’s unexpected passing, Melissa, the foundation, Claire’s family and the entire world are so grateful to have this beautiful film to carry on Claire’s work and legacy. Melissa continues to work with the directors to amplify the film, spreading Claire’s vital messages to embrace life. Today, the trailer has been viewed over 1.7 million times and the film has been watched over a million times! The film has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine, Thrive Global, Business Insider and more. Again, under Melissa’s leadership the world is learning more about CF.

Melissa works each and every day to ensure no parent should have to decide between work and being by their child’s side during hospital stays. No parent should  have to endure the stress of possibly losing their family’s home while their child lies in the hospital. Through grief and pain, Melissa carries on Claire’s light, making life easier for families living with the complications of CF.  Melissa strength and goodness radiates and continues to inspire us all.

Ways To Support Claire’s Place Foundation
Melissa Yeager

Learn more about Claire Wineland and Claire’s Place Foundation in the documentary, Claire, directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Nick Reed & Ryan Azevedo.

All photos courtesy of Claire’s Place Foundation.

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Do you have personal experience with cystic fibrosis – or know a family that is affected? What do you think of Claire’s Place Foundation?  Feel free to share your thoughts below.