“That’s why we paddle,” Ryan Burgess said, “to be bold in the face of fear and to inspire every breath.”
One hundred and fifty people, including Ryan, rose to the challenge at the annual Crossing For Cystic Fibrosis. This popular event is in its fifth year of raising awareness for the disorder, and they’ve only just begun.
The challenge is hosted by Piper’s Angels Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to all things cystic fibrosis. That includes raising awareness, providing financial support, and funding research.
“We gear more towards helping the families, and whether that’s paying for medical bills or electric bills, sometimes rent,” Ryan said.
Their biggest fundraiser by far is their epic paddling event. This year, 150 people stepped up to paddle 80 miles from Bimini in the Bahamas to Lake Worth Beach in Florida.
Not everyone who participates in the event has cystic fibrosis themselves. There are plenty of people, such as Ryan, who are there to support those who do live with the life-threatening disorder. In fact, Ryan has been participating for that reason since 2018.
“I had a friend from high school… she passed at 33 years old,” he said. “And I paddle for my friend, Jessica Makris, every year and will continue to paddle in her honor.”
As the event has grown from three friends to thousands of participants, so too has the amount of money they’ve raised. So far, they’ve managed to bring in $1.3 million in total!
Of the participants, there are plenty who do have cystic fibrosis. Scott Johnson, a man who had a double lung transplant, is one of them. There’s also Will Schulcter, who was able to complete the entire 80-mile trek.
“That’s a huge accomplishment, especially for someone who has CF, and he’s the first one and hopefully not the last,” Ryan said.
No matter how far the athletes are able to push themselves, what truly matters is the difference they’re making simply by joining in.
“It doesn’t matter whether you do 5 or all 80 miles. It’s about the journey and the impact you’re having on the community,” Ryan said. “I’m hoping to one day … find a cure and until then we’re going to keep paddling.”
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