We all know that April showers bring May flowers. But this adage doesn't just apply to Mother Nature. It extends to to our humanity, as well.
April is National Volunteer Month, celebrating the generous individuals who give time, talents and energy to their community and beyond. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is banking on that—in the upmost way. On the heels of National Volunteer Month is May, National Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month.
Throughout May, the CF Foundation hopes to raise more than $40 Million with Great Strides, its largest and most successful fundraiser. More than 90 percent of all donations raised go directly to CF medical research.
Fifty years ago, a child diagnosed with CF would most likely not live long enough to attend kindergarten. Twenty five years ago, that same child could hope to reach early adolescence (around age 12). Today, the median age of survival for a person living with CF is 37 and rising. This is due to the the wonders of modern medicine, as well as the hard work and dedication of the foundation and its countless volunteers.
But raising $40 million is not any easy task, even for a nation wide event. Fittingly enough, thousands of volunteers organize walks, invite walkers and raise fund during the entire month of April—all for the common purpose of finding a cure. They are truly showing the nation what it means to be a volunteer. They are putting their time and money where their hearts reside.
Here in the San Diego area, there are three walks scheduled:
- May 5: Escondido - Escondido, Kit Carson Park
- May 6th: Del Mar/Moonligh Beach - Del Mar, Powerhouse
- May 29th: San Diego, San Dieog, DeAnza Cove (Mission Bay)
Teams range in size from a handful of walkers to large corporate teams to gigantic crowds of family and friends. Last year, Sean's Super Striders was San Diego's largest team (Moonlight Beach, Encinitas) with more than 350 walkers. Collectively they raised over $104,000. Team co-leader Sean Young (Carlsbad, CA) was actually recently named the Examiner.com America Inspired:Outstanding Youth for his ability to raise so much money and awareness for his disease. Sean was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was 2 years old. Similar to blue eyes or other recessive genes, he inherited one recessive protein from his mother. The other from his father. The combination of the two essentially impedes the sodium chloride transfer in the cells of his organs. As a result, thick sticky mucous builds up in his lungs, causing inflammation, chronic infections and irreversible lung damage. It also blocks his digestive enzymes causing malabsorption and malnutrition.
To hold back the destructive progress of his disease, Sean wakes up at 5:30 every morning to complete his chest therapy before going to school where he maintains a straight A average. He squeezes in a second set between homework, sports, chores and simply trying to be a teenager. He swallows up to 30 pills, inhales two to three nebulized medications and injects himself him insulin every day. He has been hospitalized eight times and endured two surgeries. However, he is the first to point out the fact that he is one of the lucky ones. He is relatively healthy compared to his CF peers. At any given time, he knows of a child admitted to Radys Children's Hospital for CF related issues. A 10-year-old his family knows was admitted 14 times last year alone. And last Valentine's Day, a 14-year-old girl died of complications from the disease.
Ironically enough, Sean will be participating in Del Mar Great Strides (May 6) the day before he turns 14. His family can't think of a better way to celebrate Sean's life, as well as his hope for a better future. It is easy to imagine what Sean will be wishing for as he blows out 14 candles on his birthday cake. But then again, after Great Strides, so many of his wishes will have already come true. Because of the amazing support of friends, family and thousands of volunteers who worked so hard throughout the month of April, Sean has almost everything he needs. Who wouldn't want to celebrate his or her birthday surrounded by so much love and support?
While the ultimate goal is a cure. Working hard to get there is the next best thing. His parents often say that while the science and the donations and the research are so important, Sean literally would not be here today without them. It is the love and hope and support that fuels those efforts that makes the biggest impact.
So, next time you question if your volunteer hours truly matter. Think again: Sean Young is living proof that they do.