About Us

Appreciate Every Breath™ Foundation is dedicated to the tens of thousands of people that are living with Cystic Fibrosis today in America. Founded by Maria Espino, a Cystic Fibrosis Champion herself, the foundation focuses on giving our community of patients piece of mind and mental stability through providing employment with amazing companies that allow work from home status, remote work, and/or special accommodations for patients.

Every person has value to bring to the table, and companies of today need to understand that these people can be some of the most hard-working and dedicated employees they will ever have as part of their rosters simply because they are so extremely grateful to be given the chance to not only provide their talents in a way that is valued and appreciated but have a company that stands by them when Cystic Fibrosis takes a toll on the body.

Cystic Fibrosis patients, known as CF’ers, often face harsh hospitalizations and often feel too sick to even get up out of bed, but with the technology of today, during these times with just a few accommodations made to them, CF’ers can still work from the hospital or work from home for the few weeks they are otherwise unable to come in to an office setting. Their minds are just as capable as anyone else’s, even though their bodies may be a proverbial war zone for infections vs. antibiotics. And as Maria herself puts it, “Heck, we got nothing but time on our hands at the hospital! Most of us are bored to death there. Why not continue to work?”. We agree. And we’re trying to convince companies such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, Twitch, YouTube, and more to think outside the box and help us get our people the jobs that will not only help them provide for themselves and often their families, but also grant them access to life-saving health insurance and a sense of mental stability.

Join the fight today. Get involved by helping us talk to your HR departments and company executives about the importance of focusing on ABILITIES and not DISABILITIES.

The Founders

Maria Isabel Espino,

Founder and President

Born in Caracas, Venezuela in the early 70’s, Maria was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at just three weeks of age. Her mother already had 3 children — one of them had been pretty sick for many years without knowing that it was Cystic Fibrosis (CF). She was told her son had it when she was three months pregnant with Maria. So Maria’s parents knew to have her tested upon birth.

In the 70’s there had not been many advancements in genetics nor pharmaceuticals for lung diseases like CF. It was common to be misdiagnosed with a multitude of other things before anyone would say, “Could it be CF?” Maria’s brother was 7 years old when he was finally diagnosed and by that time his lungs had been severely scarred. He developed what is now known to be CF Related Diabetes (CFRD) and CF Related Liver Disease (CFRLD) and was put on the organ list for a double lung and liver transplant. He unfortunately died on that list at just the age of 12. Maria was 5 years old.

Maria continued to dutifully stick to her treatments and it proved to be a great success for her symptoms were mild in comparison to her brother. She took up figure ice skating and became an Olympic contender for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France as a figure pair skater with her partner Daniel Vazquez. They unfortunately did not make the team, but continued in the sport for many years after. The strenuous exercise helped to keep her lungs healthy and strong despite the occasional battles against infections.

In her early 20’s, CF started to really rear its ugly head and Maria’s symptoms started to become more pronounced. After an injury to her knees during the skating practice for the 1994 Nationals, she was no longer able to keep exercising the way she had been. She transitioned into coaching pair skating, but eventually had to stop the sport altogether. Maria then focused on her educational path, achieving two Bachelors degrees in Anthropology and Business Administration, a masters degree in Archaeology, and a Doctor’s degree in Egyptology.

Of course as her CF worsened, the travel requirements of archaeology became too great to keep up with. It was just not a viable career option anymore. She found herself trying to figure out what to do next. She had to reinvent herself. She pivoted into Information Technology over 25 years ago and now works to bring collaboration to large corporations. She has served at the Director level for the past decade at some of America’s biggest corporations. She speaks on the benefits of hiring chronic illness warriors with just some rather simple accommodations.

She currently resides in Gilbert, Arizona with her husband Jake and their three cats… Hazel, who is 5, and twin kittens Loki and Freyja.

Jacob Knoll,

Co-Founder and Senior Vice President

Born in Stony Brook, NY in the early 80s, Jacob had little to no knowledge of what Cystic Fibrosis was until meeting Maria in the early 2000’s. After meeting Maria, he worked to learn from her about the daily life of a Cystic Fibrosis spouse.

Jake, as he is known to most of us, has a degree from Suffolk Community College and works for Amazon in Chandler, AZ. He currently resides in Gilbert, Arizona with Maria and their three cats… Hazel, Loki, and Freyja.