“No one really ever dies.”
When Gary B. Sabin (BS ’77) lost his son, Justin, to cystic fibrosis, it was this thought that helped him endure the experience. And when his daughter, Jennifer, began following the same path as Justin, “no one really ever dies” was still the lifeline. Even with that mantra, however, Sabin says he was “a father who was desperate” to help his daughter.
Through connections made during Justin’s experience, Sabin raced through doctors and researchers to seek a possible treatment. He was able to provide her medical team an experimental drug from Australia that allowed her to receive a life-saving lung transplant. Today that drug is FDA approved and widely used to save people with cystic fibrosis.
For 22 years, Sabin, this year’s recipient of the Service to Family Award, has directed the Sabin Children’s Foundation (SCF), helping more than 500,000 children with illnesses and disabilities in 13 countries. “When you work with people who are struggling just to survive, you become overwhelmed with gratitude and want to help,” he says.
And, he notes, making a difference is easier than most people think: “It takes very little to change someone’s life; the price of a burger could give someone sight.”
Sabin is the vice-chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and responsible for their $4 billion investment fund, which was made possible by monetizing a royalty received from their own research on the first drug treating the basic genetic defect in cystic fibrosis.
Turning down a tennis scholarship to another school, Sabin felt directed to attend BYU. While at BYU, Sabin discovered who he was and his faith in God, especially through a Book of Mormon course he took his freshmen year. He fell in love with his Valerie Purdy (BA ’77), married her, and learned how critical family is. He credits his alma mater with helping ultimately teach him the “things that are the most important.”
Sabin is the father of six children, three of whom were diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The Sabins also have five grandchildren.
“It's wonderful to be equally yoked with people who have similar thoughts and feelings about what matters in this world,” Sabin adds. “None of this would be possible without my wife and children.”