Hundreds of walkers participate in a recent Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides at Veterans Memorial Park. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Saturday, September 08, 2012 5:55 PM
The Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides walk serves many purposes for some Southwest Louisiana residents, an organizer of the event said.
Cassondra Guilbeau, who lost her husband Brian in 2009 to the disease, said the walk not only raises funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, but it brings people together in support of one another.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract and other parts of the body.
“The walk helps people to connect with others who have CF. These events help people get in touch with others and it’s a support network,” Guilbeau said. “Families share their experiences with one another, and they share information about doctors and clinics. It’s inspirational, and it keeps the fight going.”
The event has consistently grown annually, Guilbeau said. The event goal for this year is $45,000.
“This year is going to be bigger and better than ever. I think we are going to hit that goal,” she said. “I think Southwest Louisiana is capable of surpassing that goal, and we just aren’t ever going to stop fighting.”
About 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with CF, the CF Foundation’s website says.
“That’s considered a low number, it kind of puts it in the ranks of rare diseases,” Guilbeau said. “That makes fundraisers so important because there is no government funding because those numbers are considered to be low. The reason they are so low is because there is no cure and this is a fatal disease.”
Guilbeau said through fundraisers like Great Strides that generate funds for research, she believes “in my lifetime we will find a cure for this.”
“These events are important now more than ever. They encourage us all to talk about CF,” she said. “So many of our friends and neighbors right here in Southwest Louisiana are affected by this disease.”
Guilbeau said in addition to the 5K walk, the family event will include a disc jockey; inflatable slide; a jambalaya cook-off, where participants place tips in a jar to vote for their favorite; and a dunking booth by the Louisiana State Police where children can dunk a trooper.
“Everything adds a component of fun to the event,” she said. “It’s a fundraiser, but there’s also great food and some friendly competition.”
The Brian Guilbeau Breath of Life Award will be awarded during the opening ceremonies to an individual, family or group who have “gone above and beyond in the fight against CF.”
“This award is really close to our heart because it’s named after my husband, and our daughter, Lilly, presents the award on stage to a recipient that doesn’t know prior to then that they are getting the award,” she said. “It’s a really special moment for Lilly and myself.”
The event is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 15 at Veterans Memorial Park in Lake Charles.
“We have had so many wonderful people in our community that we have lost to CF. They fought the good fight for as long as they could,” Guilbeau said. “In their honor, we need to continue the fight for these young people that have a better chance of a longer, healthier life because of the research that is going on through these funds raised.”
For more information or to register, call 225-769-9994 or visit www.cff.org/great_strides.