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Annual Great Strides Walk raises $5K

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Sam Kirby, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, participates in the Great Strides Walk Saturday at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. The walk is to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

NATCHEZ — Approximately 50 people laced up their tennis shoes Saturday morning and walked around Co-Lin Circle to raise $5,000 and awareness for cystic fibrosis in the second-annual Great Strides Walk to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Many participants walked in honor of a young Natchez man living with the cystic fibrosis. Sam Kirby was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was 6 months old.

“It’s a really good feeling knowing the community supports cystic fibrosis,” Kirby said. “It means a lot to the families that people donate and get up and spend their Saturday morning for this.”

Kirby said he struggles daily with respiratory problems associated with cystic fibrosis such as coughing. He said he also takes a lot of medication, which is time-consuming. Kirby also takes digestive enzymes to help him gain weight.

The 25-year-old Auburn graduate said he hopes cystic fibrosis research soon reduces the amount of medication a patient takes.

“Maybe not for my generation, but the next CF generation, it’ll just be you’re diagnosed with CF, and you take two pills and you’re done,” Kirby said.

Kirby’s aunt, Dianne Kirby, said she got emotional just thinking about how grateful she was for everyone who participated in the walk.

“It makes me want to cry,” she said. “It touches my heart. It means a lot to all of us with someone in the family with CF.”

Sam’s mother, Barbara Kirby, said Sam has been fortunate enough to participate in a couple of clinical trials with new medicines at the UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Ala.

“We’re really hoping these help him out, especially with the lung problems,” Barbara said.

Laurie Martin was representing the Mississippi chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at the walk. She said one of the things the foundation was working on is research with two drugs, VX-770 and VX-508, that treat the cause of CF, not just symptoms.

Martin said she thinks one of the main issues with cystic fibrosis awareness is that people just don’t know enough about the disease.

“You don’t know until it affects your family,” she said.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of approximately 30,000 children and adults in the United States and 70,000 worldwide. 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 obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.

Marlee Thomas and Matthew Goss are sophomores in Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Natchez campus Respiratory Care Program and friends of Sam’s.

Thomas said she, like many other people, did not know what cystic fibrosis was until it affected someone she knew. Thomas and Goss both said they hoped events like the Great Strides Walk raised awareness for cystic fibrosis so more and more research could be done for a cure.

“The key is to catch it early,” Goss said. “The life expectancy is in the 30s. If we raise awareness and there is more research, the life expectancy will be longer.”

Walt Wilson, a respiratory care program instructor and the event’s organizer, said $3,000 was raised through sponsors and donations for the foundation before the walk even began. Wilson said his students have been raising money and will continue through Respiratory Care Week in October.

Dianne Kirby assembled a gift basket with $300 worth of merchandise from her frame shop including a picture frame, a pillow, a fleur-de-lis platter and several other gifts to be raffled off on Oct. 26. A $250 gift certificate is also included in the basket. Chances for the basket can be purchased at Dianne’s Frame Shop for $2 or 3 for $5.

For more information on the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, visit cff.org.

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