By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
Lee University is moving forward with its plans for this year’s Great Strides walk and 65 Roses 5K run to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Organizers of the event, set to take place …
Lee University is moving forward with its plans for this year’s Great Strides walk and 65 Roses 5K run to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Organizers of the event, set to take place March 24, shared some updates on it with the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club on Thursday.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation describes the disease as “a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.” It is characterized by a buildup of thick, sticky mucus which can interfere with how the lungs and other organs function.
“There is no cure for cystic fibrosis,” said Vanessa Hammond, the event’s co-chair. “But what we have been doing to support the search for a cure has made a difference.”
Hammond said the issue of cystic fibrosis research is particularly close to her heart, as her son, Will, lives with the disease.
She said he is now a “very healthy” college student, thanks to a medication developed in recent years called Kalydeco. The research behind this medication was financially supported by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
She also spoke of her involvement with the Great Strides and 65 Roses events and said it has been “a pleasure” to be able to encourage other families affected by cystic fibrosis.
Leigh Ellington, executive director of the Tennessee chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, spoke of how the organization’s work has made a difference.
“The cystic fibrosis story is really a story of progress,” said Ellington.
More than 30,000 people in the United States are estimated to currently be living with cystic fibrosis, said Ellington. About 1,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
This diagnosis used to come with a particularly scary prognosis. This disease is most often diagnosed in early childhood, and the average lifespan of a child afflicted with it was once just 5 years old.
“For a child born today, the life expectancy has climbed to 47,” said Ellington.
While many would consider that to still be way too young, Ellington said this news has given many hope. By funding further research, the foundation hopes to help medical scientists discover how to increase patients’ life expectancies.
There are currently 11 drugs approved to treat cystic fibrosis, Ellington said. Two of them — Kalydeco and Orkambi — address “root causes” of the genetic disease.
Ellington said the foundation has helped as researchers have developed “nearly every drug” for cystic fibrosis.
The state executive director also offered her thanks to the Cleveland community for its continued support of the Great Strides and 65 Roses events.
This year will mark the 19th year of Great Strides, the first of the two events to be developed. If all goes well with fundraising this year, organizers expect the events will have raised $1 million altogether.
Dr. Bill Estes, dean of Lee’s Helen DeVos College of Education and a Cleveland City Councilman, said the event has grown to be “one of the biggest community events in Cleveland each year.
To help celebrate the events’ successes so far, organizers have invited a special guest to be part of the 65 Roses 5K race.
Meb Keflezighi, an internationally-known long-distance runner, will be joining local runners for the race. Keflezighi has the distinction of being the only man to ever win the New York Marathon, the Boston Marathon and an Olympic medal.
“This is a huge deal for Cleveland,” Estes said. “This event has become something that we never even dreamed about when we first started.”
For more information or to register for the walk or run, visit www.leeuniversity.edu/cf.
“This is a huge deal for Cleveland. This event has become something that we never even dreamed about when we first started.” — Dr. Bill Estes
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