Dedicated to local teacher Erin Halliday-Duffy, this year's Cystic Fibrosis Run/Walk and BBQ marked the 13th anniversary of race, hosted by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and At Your Service Waiter Staffing. On Sunday, hordes of people gathered in the rain on West Avenue. They ran through puddles and walked in slickers and their hearts were all in the same place – with the desire to find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis (CF).
A genetic life-threatening disease, CF causes a mucus build up in the body's organs, particularly the lungs and pancreas. When the lungs are clogged, it can make breathing very difficult and lead to infections, which cause them damage. Mucus that blocks the pancreas can prevent important digestive enzymes from reaching the intestines. Though there is currently no cure, special medicines can help prolong and improve one's quality of life.
The family of Kristen Clark, who succumbed to the disease this past February, walked in her memory this year. "She never let CF stop her," said Clark's father, Nick Jacobellis. A member of the fire department, she was on the first ambulance out of Melville on 9/11. She was also a champion horseback rider. Clark possessed both a Bachelor's and Master's degree and was working toward a law degree when she died. "Kristen really did the most with her life," her father announced proudly.
"There are still a lot of things people don't know about CF," said Clark's husband, Dan Clark. "It's nice to do events like this and make people more aware." One of the things he stressed was the possibilities living donors offer CF sufferers. "Most people do cadaveric transplants, but there are other options."
A living donor transplant is a procedure where the right bottom lobe of one donor and the left bottom lobe of another is given to the recipient, as opposed to using the lungs of a donor who is pronounced "brain dead." However, living donor transplants are more complicated because it involves three people undergoing surgery. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website, the success rates of both surgeries are about the same. After one year of transplantation as many as 90 percent of recipients are still alive, and 50 percent continue to live five years post transplant.
Kristen Clark added eight years to her life by undergoing living donor transplants in 2002 and 2009.
The run/walk provided an opportunity for family and friends to do something positive in a fun way. Brendan Barrett, co-owner of the Sayville Running Company and a sponsor of the event as part of the Sayville Summer Series, said, "there are just so many genuinely good people who want to support the cause. There's a huge running community in Sayville and everyone likes to do charities. It's a fun way to raise money."
Colin Culhane was the first male to cross the finish line. Having grown up in Sayville, he said the running community is comprised of a great group of people.
The first woman's winner was Heather Wright. Running in honor of her friend's daughter who suffers from CF, Wright also became a mother just five months ago. "This is a wonderful opportunity and I'm glad to see so many volunteers," she said.
However, you don't have to be light on your feet to participate in this race. Those who could not run the four miles could take a leisurely two-mile walk through the southern part of town. The group Rolling Thunder, a non-profit organization that trains special needs athletes to run typical races, hit the pavement with pride in their easily spotted in their signature green jerseys. "About 80 percent of the group has Autism and 20 percent are either physically or learning disabled," explained Dawn Meany, who ran with her son. Racing as a group since 1999, the team has been encouraging challenged competitors in races all over Long Island.
Long Island's south shore provided a great backdrop for the end race festivities held at the Long Island Maritime Museum. Overlooking the Great South Bay, participants feasted on barbecued and other treats, donated by Panera Bread and Audrey's Fine Baked Goods. The crowd enjoyed dancing to the top hits played by local band The Retreads, which is comprised mostly of Sayville teachers.
The Cystic Fibrosis run/walk is the third race in the Sayville Summer Series. On August 7 at 9:20 a.m. the fourth will take place starting at the Sayville Running Company and ending at Gillette Park on Candee avenue. To learn more about upcoming events, register and see results of past races, you can visit www.sayvillesummerseries.com.