The Social Distance Squad: Teens with Cystic Fibrosis Teach Other Teens How to Cope with COVID-19 Restrictions

Teens and tweens with cystic fibrosis (CF) are trying to teach other teens a thing or two about social distancing as part of The Social Distance Squad, a program developed by AREA 23, an FCB Health Network company, in partnership with five leading cystic fibrosis (CF) nonprofits. The program positions kids with CF as social distancing experts who can help other teens cope with social distancing measures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals with CF are required to social distance due to their genetic condition. AREA 23 recognized that a team of young CF teens and tweens could help other teens by banding together to share their lockdown tips, wisdom and support.

The outbreak of COVID-19 and the need to implement social distancing measures has hit teens especially hard. They have been cut off from their social circles during their formative years, missed out on key events and have been left searching for guidance on how to be social while social distancing. Identifying this need, AREA 23 brought together Claire’s Place Foundation (Los Angeles, CA), Piper’s Angels (Jupiter, FL), the Bonnell Foundation (Detroit, MI), Attain Health (Red Lodge, MT) and the Boomer Esiason Foundation (New York, NY).

AREA 23 developed a creative, multichannel platform that elevates young people with CF to the role of thought leaders and influencers, providing expert advice to teens as members of The Social Distance Squad. This platform facilitates the sharing of encouraging and inspiring stories, and quick tips ranging from how to stay connected and happy during lockdowns, to how to talk with friends about agreeing to social distancing ground rules to safely visit or get together. They have connected with teens through social media videos, virtually visiting learning institutions, and by providing a direct pathway for young people to share what they are struggling with related to their COVID-19 world and ask for personalized advice from The Social Distance Squad. 

“The reaction has been immediate. We’ve seen kids in virtual classes express a different outlook after meeting with the Squad, seeing opportunities instead of frustrations,” said Logan Allanson, AREA 23 Creative Director and Cannes Lions 2019 Grand Prix winner. “And it’s not just kids being uplifted, but teachers and parents too. We could all learn a lot from the Squad.” 

The Social Distance Squad first connected with teens in early Spring and has been expanding ever since. Originally, the CF experts partnered with teachers to make appearances in virtual school classrooms across the country, where they led interactive Q&A sessions and shared the tips they’ve honed from their lifetime’s worth of experience with social distancing to stay healthy. As the campaign evolved, members of the Social Distance Squad created and shared video lessons about staying healthy and happy on Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok. With the most recent expansion, teens can now sign up for mediated one-on-one and group sessions with Squad members to request expert advice on the areas that have been their greatest concern. As the program continues to expand and evolve, more teens can join the Squad to share their tips and experiences.

“With each iteration, we’re continuing to find new ways for young people and the general public to learn from the Social Distance Squad,” said AREA 23 Creative Directors Andy Gerchak and Pamela Savage. “Their cystic fibrosis may put them at higher risk of lung infections, but it’s also made them uniquely qualified to help everyone stay safe and happy.”

“To be able to spread my knowledge and lifelong experiences of social distancing with teens and young adults has been tremendously impactful for both me and the participants,” said Leah Schwanke, a senior member and mentor of The Social Distance Squad. “I hope my lockdown lesson shows teens that you can live a purposeful and happy life while maintaining social distance precautions. Young people need to know that the CF community has been doing this for years. If we can do it and stay happy and healthy, they can do it too.”

In addition to helping young people cope with the newfound challenges of social distancing, the initiative serves to raise awareness and increase understanding among the general public of the strength, innovation and positivity of the CF community.


AREA 23, an FCB Health Network company 

  • Tim Hawkey – CCO
  • Jay Gertelman – ACD 
  • Logan Allanson – SVP Creative Director
  • Andy Gerchak – SVP Creative Director
  • Pamela Savage – SVP Creative Director
  • Eduardo Tavares – VP CD Design
  • Meghan Patenaude – ACD 
  • Roberta Totaro – Art Supervisor
  • Angela Williams – Copy Supervisor
  • Lydia Sine – Account Supervisor
  • Jennifer Ma – SVP Director Integrated Production 
  • Miona Mui – VP Director Integrated Production
  • Paddy Giordano – Senior Producer
  • Cassie Diehm – Senior Producer
  • Keith Haitkin – Senior Producer
  • Bill Hanff – VP Director Technology and Digital Production 
  • Arthur Daraujo – ACD Art and Design
  • Emily Carman – Group Art Supervisor
  • Katelyn Baumann – Senior Art Director 
  • Sarah McKinnon – Art Director
  • Carolina Sanchez – Junior Art Director 
  • Patrick Egan – Junior Copywriter
  • Omar Inca – Junior Art Director 
  • Sabrina Koenig – Junior Art Director
  • Sarah Vallecillo – Junior Copywriter
  • Ethan Victor – Junior Copywriter
  • Ronnie Caltabiano – VP ACD
  • Anna Lopez – VP Senior Producer
  • KC Dickerson – SVP Group Engagement 


Studio Rx, an FCB Health Network company

  • Paul Belliveau – VP Creative Director Content 
  • Max Wolkowitz – Motion Graphics Designer
  • Joel Stearns – Audio Engineer
  • Kelly Rice – Executive Producer
  • Mara Chase – Producer
  • Gary Greco – Editor


FCB Global 

  • Fred Levron – Global Creative Partner
  • Melanie Mitchem – Global Communications Director
  • Marisa McWilliams – Corporate Communications Manager 


Crew Cuts 

  • Gwen Grillo – Editor
  • Liam Fitzmaurice – Editor
  • Jesse Samaritano – Editor
  • Diana Seldin – Editor
  • Nancy Jacobsen – Producer
  • Michelle Bellaff – Producer