BY AARON LONDON, STAFF WRITER
A steady, breezy rain did not deter the more than 200 walkers who turned out Friday for a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Great Strides walk.In fact, breezy was why they were there. Breezy Shiflett, to be exact.
Organized locally by Nate Shiflett and his wife, Jessica, the funds raised by the walk go to support research on the disease that has touched their lives through their 6-year-old daughter, Breezy.
Nate Shiflett said the response to the walk -- the first one of its kind in Flagler County -- was overwhelming.
"We started to get a buzz about a month ago with trying to promote the event," he said before the late afternoon event. "Imagine School helped a lot."
The Imagine School at Town Center presence was strong, with more than 100 students, teachers and parents on hand to walk for Breezy and others with cystic fibrosis.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive systems of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (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, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school. Today, advances in research and medical treatments have extended life for children and adults with CF into their 30s, 40s and beyond, the foundation states.
Palm Coast resident Katie Frazier was there with her Gamma Eta sorority sisters from Jacksonville University to walk.
"We're here for our friend, Lacey, and her brother that passed away, Logan," she said.
For Claudia Werner, executive director of the North Florida Office of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the turnout and enthusiasm of participants was heartwarming, especially given the fact it was a first-year event in Flagler County.
"You're usually lucky if you get 100," she said. "As of last night, we had 215 (walkers) confirmed."
Werner said Great Strides events are held all over the country and are the biggest national event the foundation holds. The Flagler County effort was expected to raise between $10,000 and $12,000.
"This is what funds the science for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation," she said.
For Nate Shiflett, the event was all part of life with a child with cystic fibrosis.
He said Breezy was not diagnosed until about two years ago, though he and his wife knew something was wrong.
"We knew that something wasn't quite right," he said.
Finally, a doctor in Ormond Beach diagnosed Breezy with CF.
"It was sort of a relief, on the one hand, that we found out what it was," Shiflett said.
Shiflett said he and his wife plan on making the walkathon an annual event.
"Hopefully we can continue to do this year after year and continue to build it up," he said.