The story behind the term 65 Roses for Cystic Fibrosis

Many people ask the team here at Cystic Fibrosis Queensland how we came up with the clever mondegreen to help people recall the disease, cystic fibrosis.

While we are a clever bunch, we cannot take credit for 65 roses.

The term, 65 roses, was coined in the late-1960’s, by Ricky Weiss a four-year-old with cystic fibrosis. The young boy’s mother, Mary, became a volunteer for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in 1965 after learning that all three of her sons had cystic fibrosis. To help raise funding for the disease, Weiss made phone calls to gather support for cystic fibrosis research. Unbeknown to Weiss, Ricky was nearby, listening in on her calls.

One day, Ricky confronted his mother and told her that he knew about her calls. His mother was surprised because she had kept any knowledge of the condition hidden from her sons. Confused, Weiss asked Ricky what he thought the phone calls were about. He answered her, "You are working for 65 Roses."

Mary was incredibly moved by his innocent mispronunciation of cystic fibrosis, as have many people since that day.

To this day, the term 65 Roses has been used to help children put a name to their condition. The phrase has since become a registered trademark of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. World-wide cystic fibrosis charitable organisations have adopted the fundraising term as well as the rose as the symbol.

In Australia, May is our national month of awareness and fundraising – 65 Roses for Cystic Fibrosis!

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