Community groups and families are gearing up for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s annual Great Strides Walk-a-thon, which will take place in Chester on Sunday, May 16.
The family-friendly Chester walk, which is sponsored by the Virginia Chapter of the CF Foundation, will take place on the grounds of the Chester Library. This year’s fundraising goal for the walk is to raise almost $20,000. Check in for the walk will begin at 1:30 p.m., and the walk will start at 2 p.m.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States, and about 70,000 around the world, according to the CF Foundation’s website. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections and affects the pancreas, the site says.
In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school, the site says; today, many people with the disease can expect to live into their 30s, 40s and beyond.
Marie Chenault participated in the walk for the first time last year, after her grandson, Myles, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was just 3 weeks old. After the diagnosis was confirmed, Myles father, Rob Gebhardt, “was just unbelievable,” Chenault said, and got in touch with the Virginia Chapter of the CF Foundation. Though that year’s walk-a-thon was just eight weeks away, the family came together and raised about $8,000, she said.
“It was emotional for us, but we were on a mission,” she said. So far, the family has raised nearly $12,000 for this year’s walk, including at least $358 raised at a spirit night at Chick-fil-A on Thursday, April 29, she said. The $358 was raised when people paid to spin a wheel for Chick-fil-A coupons; the family doesn’t yet known how much money was raised by food sales, she said.
“We had so much fun and we had such a good turnout,” she said. “When you go through something like this, it just lets you know people are still the good people we want them to be.” But recent days have been bittersweet, she said, as the family learned of the deaths of two cystic fibrosis patients in their 20s.
“[Myles has] just done really, really well, but there’s just so many who aren’t,” Chenault said. The family is just beginning its journey with the disease, she said, but “the Lord knew what He was doing when He gave this baby to” Rob and Chenault’s daughter, Stacy, who is a nurse.
On Friday and Saturday, April 16-17, Chester Middle School’s National Junior Honor Society held a car wash to raise money for the May 16 walk. More than 30 NJHS members participated in the fundraiser, according to information from Carol Miller, whose daughter, Faith, has cystic fibrosis and attends CMS. The NJHS raised $509 for the walk, Miller said.
Team Read, the library reading club at CMS, is also raising funds for the walk by having several fundraisers, such as Hat Day and Loose Change Day, Miller said.
Donations to the Chester Middle School effort can be made online at www.cff.org/great_strides/RobertGifford  or www.cff.org/great_strides/ShelleyArmstrong . Checks can also be mailed to or dropped off at Chester Middle School, 3900 W. Hundred Road, Chester; designate NJHS or Team Read in the memo line.
To donate to the Miles for Myles team, find the team online by visiting http://www.cff.org/great_strides/findwalker/ , and searching for the team. For more information on the walk, visit www.greatstrides.cff.org .