Great Strides taking giant leap against CF
by Beecher Hunter
Mar 10, 2013 | 624 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Honorary Chairperson

Great Strides Walk

& 65 Roses 5K

The scene is etched indelibly in my mind. I was standing in the lobby of Baptist Hospital in Nashville late one evening in January 1963. The temperature outside was in the teens and falling. Six inches of snow lay on the ground and more — like the temperature — was falling.

I had only been employed with the Cleveland Daily Banner for about four months when a telephone call came from my mother. My youngest brother, Harold, who has a disease called von Willebrand, a bleeding disorder, had been in the intensive care unit for two weeks following surgery, requiring 123 pints of blood. The bleeding was continuing, and my mother was calling to report the doctor had said Harold might not live through the night. My wife, Lola, and I had rushed through snow and ice from Cleveland, crossing Monteagle Mountain with difficulty, to join the family.

The appeal for blood donors had gone out through newspapers and electronic media. Standing there in the hospital lobby, I was amazed as a line of people, responding to the plea, came through the door on a miserable winter night. They didn’t know my brother or our family. They only knew that a 17-year-old kid from Cookeville needed their help.

As I watched them come and go, the question kept ringing in my mind, “How can I ever repay these folks?” The answer was obvious: Pay it forward. The kindness that has been shown to us — pay it forward.

The good news is that my brother recovered. He is today the president of Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Ind.

Is it any wonder that I support Blood Assurance? Or United Way?

And when Dr. Paul Conn, president of Lee University and a valued friend, and his daughter, Vanessa Hammond, Lee’s director of grants, asked me to consider serving as the honorary chairperson of the Great Strides walk and 65 Roses 5K road race for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the promise I made on that snowy evening in 1963 flashed before me.

You see, Vanessa and her husband, Jerome Hammond, have a son, Will, with this disease. And other families throughout our area are also affected by it.

Cystic fibrosis is a complex genetic disease that damages and eventually destroys the lungs of patients. Those who contribute to Great Strides are directly supporting research and drug development for the 30,000 children and young adults in the United States who have been diagnosed with the disorder.

And this is a cause we are winning. Today, there are about 30 potential drugs in development for the treatment of cystic fibrosis. A giant step forward came in 2011 when a new drug application was submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under the trade name Kalydeco. In 2012, the FDA approved Kalydeco for people with G551D mutation of CF ages 6 and older. The drug is the first to address the underlying cause of CF and opens new doors to research and development that may lead to a cure for all people living with the disease.

Citizens of Cleveland, Bradley County and this area have responded in their typical generous fashion, last year raising more than $75,000 in the Great Strides walk and 65 Roses 5K road race.

This year’s events are scheduled for Saturday, April 13, on the Lee University campus. Registration will get under way at 7 a.m. in front of the Lee University Student Union. The 5K (3.1 miles) road race is slated for an 8:30 a.m. start, and the walk will begin at 10 a.m. The route commences on the Lee campus and goes through downtown Cleveland and the historic Ocoee Street area. Additional information and online registration are available at the local event website at, or by contacting Cleveland walk coordinator Rosie Adams in the Office of Student Development at 614-8406.

Maybe your family is like mine: There are some kindnesses to be paid forward.


(Editor’s Note: Beecher Hunter is president of Life Care Centers of America and a former editor of the Cleveland Daily Banner).