Opinion

She’s all grown up | Guest Column

By JOE IRWIN
Guest columnist

I received an email the other day from my former North Kitsap editor Chris Case with “She’s all grown up” as the subject line. Naturally, I dropped what I was doing to see what my old boss (and, yes, she’ll take that the wrong way but we’re good friends so I don’t care) was talking about.

I opened it up to read a simple message, “Where have all those years gone?” and a link to an article in the Herald. There I found a piece about one inspiring young lady from Poulsbo, who wasn’t as young as Chris or I remember her. She’s still inspiring as hell, though. My response to Chris, was pretty much immediate, “Holy crap. So she’s married now? I remember when she was in pigtails. This doesn’t make me feel like a dinosaur at all.”

Actually, it did. Chris, too.

Chris and I became acquainted with Brianna Oas (now Strand) and the Oas family what seems like a lifetime ago in the mid-1990s, when I was first tasked with covering the Great Strides Walkathon for Cystic Fibrosis in Poulsbo. Brianna was between the ages of 6 and 8 (maybe 9?) at the time (I could probably try to figure that out exactly but math has never been a strong suit, which is why I was journalist in the first place).

Anyway, I got lost on the way to their farm off State Route 3 and Thompson Road (or thereabouts), and arrived late as I was prone to do in those days and (with three young kids of my own) am even more prone to do nowadays. I met Jim, Val and Brianna and we started talking. Well, Jim did. I mainly listened, and when he took a breath shot in a quick question now and again. Jim gave me the background on CF, how they found out that Brianna had it and so on. And mentioned something along the lines of … “And if we’re lucky, she’ll live to about 17.”

None of the Oas family batted an eyelash at that apparent fact of life around their household, but I felt that I’d been punched in the gut. I asked Brianna a few questions, several of which Jim answered (he’s chatty like that), took a few photos and was on my way. I got to thinking about Brianna on the way back to the office where I explained that situation to Chris and discussed story ideas about the walkathon.

We decided I should check it out personally and throw some ink at a good cause, as we used to say in the industry (and maybe they still do). I’m glad we did. What I saw there was more than kids on roller skates, bikes, trikes and skateboards. It was more than several dozen people walking to support research, a friend, and member of their family. What I witnessed there was hope, pure and simple.

Chris and I spent several years working with Team Oas, doing what we could to help them spread their message. Every time we met, the family’s unwavering faith in finding a cure floored us. No easy task when dealing with two jaded journalists, who hadn’t just been around the block at that point, but had poured some of the original sidewalks.

While Chris and I haven’t shared a newsroom in more than a decade, the lessons we learned from an optimistic little girl and her family have stayed with both of us. We’re better people because of them.

"We're going to witness a miracle in our lifetime," Brianna said recently.

We’d have to argue that anyone who knows her already has.

Joe Irwin, Olympia
and Chris Case, Olympia

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