GREAT STRIDES

No one has ever become poor by giving.
— Anne Frank
 Coming together to support wonderful children living with CF, like Lucien (far left)

Coming together to support wonderful children living with CF, like Lucien (far left)

It’s amazing what can be accomplished when people work together. Humans are capable of so much. So much compassion. So much support. So much discovery, improvement, and advancement.

Just over sixty years ago, if a child was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), there was no expectation that they would live long enough to attend elementary school. A heartbreaking reality that too many had to face.

In 1955, a group of parents began collaborating with the belief that they could effect change. They formed the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation with the understanding that together, and with the help of families, friends, neighbors, and communities, they could achieve better care, treatment, and eventually find a cure for this devastating illness.

Although I was aware that Cystic Fibrosis was a lung disease, I’ll confess that was the extent of my knowledge on the subject. If you’re like I was, here are some sobering facts about CF.

  • CF is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick, sticky buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, extensive lung damage, and eventually, respiratory failure. In the pancreas, the mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food and absorb vital nutrients.
  • More than 30,000 people are living with cystic fibrosis in the United States (more than 70,000 worldwide).
  • Approximately 1,000 new cases of CF are diagnosed each year.
  • More than 75 percent of people with CF are diagnosed by age 2.
  • Click here to learn more.

One more fact: Thanks to the efforts of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the countless volunteers, donors, employees, doctors, scientists, families, friends, and others it has brought together, today almost half of people with Cystic Fibrosis are age 18 or older. Many even live into their 30s, 40s, and beyond.

It's a great improvement, but there's still so much to be done. As folks associated with the CF Foundation say, they will not rest until CF stands for "Cure Found."

Most of us don't have the ability, knowledge, or resources to do genetic research. We may not know anyone with this rare disease. Yet, we all can play an integral part in finding a cure. The Great Strides event is a great place to start. In almost 500 cities across the country, the CF Foundation hosts this annual fund raising walk.

 Hanging with Kate and Chuck, the Great Strides Coordinators

Hanging with Kate and Chuck, the Great Strides Coordinators

Just west of South Dakota's border with Minnesota, the city of Sioux Falls sits surrounded by expansive prairie. Vast distances and a seemingly endless horizon separate the few towns that exist in one of our nations least populated states. Yet these distances do nothing to dissuade the sense of community the residents have, as was evident when we showed up to help with the local Great Strides event.

More than just a conduit for raising much needed funds to help find a cure for CF, the walk proved to be a way for people impacted by this disease to come together, share support, stories, resources, or sometimes just hugs and laughs.

A festive atmosphere which included pizza, tailgating tents, music, and more was a reminder that this is all about hope. Indefatigable children living with CF were playing, laughing, and celebrating, some too young to understand what they're faced with, or what a positive influence their very existence has on those around them. Strong families that support each other through so much difficulty were there smiling, energetic, and proud.

It's when you're part of something so special, even if just for a day, that you're reminded of what we are all collectively capable of, when we work together.