By Kalvin Valdillez
On the morning of July 7, over one-hundred and fifty community members laced up their best pair of walking shoes and gathered at the Tulalip Amphitheater for the annual Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Walk. 2018 marks the organization’s thirtieth anniversary as well as the tenth anniversary since the first Great Strides Walk took place here in Tulalip. Great Strides Tulalip was organized by two local mothers of children living with cystic fibrosis (CF) who wanted to help find a cure for the life-threatening disease. Since then, the walk continues to raise awareness, helping the community get a better understanding of what CF actually is.
CF is a rare, complex genetic disease which causes an excessive buildup of thick mucus in the lungs as well as the pancreas and other organs throughout the body. People living with CF are prone to respiratory and pancreatic issues and also a number of infections due to bacteria buildup. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, more than thirty-thousand people are living with CF nationwide. Due to years of research and scientific advancement, the average lifetime for people living with CF has increased significantly to the age of forty. Circa the 1950’s the average child living with the disease rarely made it to elementary school.
“There are eightwalks we put on across Washington and Alaska,” states Washington CFF Development Director, Anna Lester. “We have about six-hundred and fifty thousand dollars raised and around twenty-five hundred to three-thousand walkers across the two states. It’s the CFF’s largest fundraising initiative, nationally there’s around five-hundred walks and forty-million dollars raised. This walk is the only walk north of Seattle in Washington.”
Kelsie Pablo co-founded Great Strides Tulalip to help find a cure for her son, Keldan, who was diagnosed with CF at birth.
“We start at the Tulalip Amphitheater and walk all the way around the Outlet Mall, around Boom City and cut through the Casino for about a three mile walk,” says Kelsie. “I started this walk with another mom ten years ago. And the reason why I started the walk is because my son has cystic fibrosis. The very first year we did the Seattle walk and that was a long commute for all of our families so we thought, why not start one in Tulalip?
“My son is a Tulalip tribal member and we have a huge group of supporters and we’ve just grown so much in these past ten years,” she continues. “We’re out here raising awareness for CF and all the money that we raise goes towards new medication, ultimately medication that will cure the underlying cause of CF.”
Over the course of its ten year run, the walk has inspired many families in the Snohomish County area to join on behalf of a loved one living with CF. A number of families’ and local organizations register as teams to participate in the walk. Each team wears different color t-shirts, displaying graphics that bring awareness to the disease, as well as the name of their teams such as Team Keldan and Team Alicia. This year there were twelve teams fundraising to help bring an end to the CF disease.
Several Tulalip Lions Club members attend the Great Strides Tulalip event every year, volunteering their time and assistance to ensure the walk’s a success. Many members also help spread the word leading up to the event, bringing out more and more walkers each year.
“I have been a member from the very beginning of the walk,” says Linda Tolbert, Tulalip Lions Club Community Services Chairwoman. “We’ve had Lions Club members from Arlington, Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Seven Lakes, Marysville, Stanwood, Mill Creek and Tulalip participate. Our role is getting more people involved so they’re more aware of CF. Most patients have to take thirty to forty different drugs a day just to survive, we want to find a cure.”
Once all of the CF awareness walkers make their way back to the amphitheater, they’re treated to some midmorning entertainment as a live band plays rock n’ roll classics while participants get a chance to enjoy company and a snack, bringing the Great Strides Tulalip event to a close.
This year the goal for the teams of Great Strides Tulalip was a combined total of $34,004. Although the goal wasn’t met on the day the event took place, supporters can still make contributions to the team of their choice until December 31, by visiting the Tulalip 2018 page at www.fightcf.cff.org