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Oas family takes ‘Great Strides’ for CF

VINLAND – Children and adults alike pulled on their sneakers last Saturday, stepping out at the Great Strides Walkathon at Vinland Elementary to raise money toward finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis.

More than 30,000 Americans suffer from Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a life-threatening disease which mainly affects the respiratory and digestive systems.

Many at the event donned “Team CF” T-shirts and wore pictures of close friends and relatives who have the disease as a sign of support as they walked the route from Vinland to Briedablik Elementary and back.

After 14 years of hosting the event, Jim and Valerie Oas recognized most of the people who attended from previous years.

Even so, not everyone was local.

Flying up from California, Cathy Alatorre came to support her daughter living here with CF.

“My world is better because my daughter is in it,” Alatorre said. “It is easy for me to connect with other mothers who are in my same position. The money raised at these events is a wonderful by-product but it is also a nice way to say, ‘I’m hurting, will you stand with me?’ Human touch is a wonderful healing agent.”

Like many who come to support someone close, the Oas family had their own reason for bringing the walkathon to the area. Their youngest daughter Brianna was diagnosed with CF at the age of 3.

“Brianna was on the verge of death at the time of her diagnosis,” her mother Valerie said.

As parents, the Oases decided to become involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and start something that could potentially raise enough money to not only help their daughter but all children living with CF.

Despite her illness, Brianna is seen by her family as a big inspiration.

“Although her body can be a little weaker than others at times, her strong willed spirit and personality doubles for it,” older sister Kristen said.

“She’s a typical teen,” Valerie said laughing. “Life is too important to her to slow up. There isn’t anything she can’t do.”

Brianna celebrated her 17th birthday on Wednesday.

“Research has come a long way,” Brianna’s father Jim said, “Twenty years ago, the mean life expectancy for people with CF was around 15.”

Now, thanks to treatments and therapies, Jim said, the average CF sufferer can live into his or her 30s.

Ty Garfield, who has been involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for seven years, believes the organization is not far off from a cure.

“Once a cure is found, CF will be seen as a gateway for other diseases to find a cure,” Garfield said.

Great Strides walk-a-thos are held across the country and the money raised provides the primary funds to that support CF research.

While the call for support goes out nationally, it all comes down to individuals backing the event. In Poulsbo, Hill Moving and Storage provided a generous donation to further the fight against CF.

Through the ups and downs of the disease and ins and outs of the hospital, the Oas family remains strong and solid in their love and faith in one another.

“I won’t give up on fighting this disease,” Jim said, “The disease takes its toll on the bodies of these kids but it doesn’t take its toll on my spirit to fight it. When Bri gets to heaven, a new and healthy body she will have. Until then, I will fight the good fight. It’s the family plan — we go through this together.”

The Oas family said they will continue organizing the walk each year, “Till cows come home,” Valerie said.

Support of the event will continue, as Attore put it “until CF no longer stands for Cystic Fibrosis but ‘cured forever.’”

To make donations, write to:

James Oas

c/o Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

155 NW Thompson Rd.

Poulsbo, WA 98370

For more info visit

www.cff.org

 

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