Sunday, November 4, 2012

Taking Strides To Find a Cure

By Melissa Place

On June 22, 2012, Albertus Magnus High School in Bardonia, New York hosted its third annual Cystic Fibrosis Walk-A-Thon.  This walk, however, was unlike that of any other– Jimmy Place, who would have been a sophomore at Albertus, had passed away from Cystic Fibrosis on July 23, 2011.

Despite the tragedy of Jimmy’s passing, the Albertus community along with Jimmy’s family, friends and locals came together to raise as much money as possible in an effort to help find a cure for this deadly disease.

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease that ultimately ranges in forms and severity.  In Jimmy’s case, he unfortunately had one of the worse types of Cystic Fibrosis gene– the Delta 508 gene.  This gene affects mainly the respiratory and digestive systems.  All humans produce a healthy amount of mucus in their lungs; however, an individual with Cystic Fibrosis produces an excessive amount of mucus that builds up in the lungs, leaving the individual susceptible to various infections.  Cystic Fibrosis also affects the digestive system– an individual with Cystic Fibrosis has a pancreas that does not emit enzymes; when the body struggles to digest food, the body is unable to absorb nutrients and gaining weight is extremely difficult.

Registration for the walk, which was free of charge, began at 9 a.m.  While the line for registration was tended to, registered members were able to enjoy bagels with cream cheese or butter, sponsored by David’s Bagels, along with fruits and water.  At approximately 10 a.m. registered walkers stepped out onto the Albertus track field and listened to Jimmy’s sister–myself–speak about his legacy:

“Jimmy woke up everyday, put a smile on his face and impacted people’s lives in ways I wish I knew how.  His strength, courage, optimism, hope, outlook on life, personality, determination, will power, and his reluctance to ever let Cystic Fibrosis stop him from living his life to the fullest were the most inspirational characteristics.  To possess one of those qualities would be a blessing; Jimmy had them all.  It is these qualities that have given my family and I, and all of you here who knew Jimmy, the strength and courage to be here today, to continue to finish Jimmy’s fight against Cystic Fibrosis and ensure there will be a cure found for all of those in the world that have it.  I cannot formulate the words to describe how much my family, all of you, and myself love and miss Jimmy, but I can tell all of you that Jimmy would be so proud of all of us today.”

When I finished, Jimmy’s mom, Alison, said: “I don’t think there was one person at the walk who did not have tears in their eyes.”

After the speech, the walkers began their journey of walking four times around the Albertus track for Jimmy and for all of those affected by Cystic Fibrosis.  The radio station 92.3 NOW provided music throughout the walk’s entirety.  “I just wish he was here with us,” Jimmy’s dad, David, said sadly.

At the conclusion of the walk, the money was counted and it turns out the June 2012 walk-a-thon was the most successful Cystic Fibrosis walk hosted in Rockland yet.  A total of $90,000 was raised.  “Rockland County is a relatively small county.  There are thousands of large walks that take place in areas like New York City, and for a small county walk to raise this much money, we could not have asked for more,” Alison said.

Albertus Magnus will continue to host annual Cystic Fibrosis walk-a-thons in Jimmy’s memory. 

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