Throughout the past few weeks, sisters Emily and Bailey Radek took over their family’s garage with 150 rocks and two giant cases of puffy paint. They estimate it took them around 12 hours to paint all of the rocks, and that doesn’t count the time spent collecting them from Summit County streams and riverbeds.
Once the rocks are finished, the girls sell them for two days at the Dillon Farmers Market. They then donate all the money they raise to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a nonprofit organization with worldwide reach dedicated to researching medicines and finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.
LIVING WITH CYSTIC FIBROSIS
Emily, 14, and Bailey, 16, grew up in Summit County and attended Summit Cove Elementary School. It was there that they met Megan Andersen, 15, who has since become a close friend.
At age 1½, Megan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and has no known cure.
“Each day I have to do two treatments and take almost 50 pills,” Megan wrote recently in a letter asking for donations for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “Doing my treatments every day kind of sucks, but that’s what I have to do right now. … My biggest wish right now is to find a cure for CF so I don’t have to worry, do treatments, and take so many pills each day.”
Despite the challenges that arise due to cystic fibrosis, Megan has endeavored to live life just as any other Summit County teen. Her main passion is skiing, and she races with the high school team, with the goal of continuing with it into college (she is currently a sophomore at Summit High School).
“I want to be able to be like my friends,” Megan wrote in her letter, “and be able to have a sleepover and not have to bring my oxygen, treatments, pills and feeding tube. I want to be able to go to party’s [sic] and not worry about being home early to do treatments and get a good night sleep so I don’t get sick. I want to be able to finish a ski race and be able to take a breath at the end. I want to be able to hike a mountain and not have to use oxygen.”
Megan is one of at least two people in Summit County dealing with cystic fibrosis. Tony Madonna, a Breckenridge resident, also works to raise money for CF.
ROCKS FOR A CAUSE
Neither Bailey nor Emily guessed, when they painted their first rock, where the project would lead. It has grown each year, becoming a tradition for the two sisters, a tribute to their friend and a way to help others they will never meet.
“Everything kind of fell into place,” said Bailey, over finding a method to use the rocks to raise money.
“It’s a nonprofit,” Emily added. “We’re not doing this to get money for us.”
“We really enjoy doing it,” Bailey said, and Emily nodded in agreement.
Last Friday, the two had their booth set up at the farmers market. Bright colors leapt from the table, the neon pinks, blues and greens of the puffy paint proclaiming “love,” “hope,” or highlighting designs like flowers, hearts, mountains or the Colorado flag. Some featured painted eyes next to a sign — “pet rocks” — while others painted like ladybugs were pointed out as crowd favorites.
“I think it’s really cool to raise a lot of money for cystic fibrosis,” said Megan, who had dropped by to hang out with her friends. “It means a lot because a lot of money goes directly to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It can directly impact a lot of kids.”
As recently as the 1950s, “few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school,” according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website. Now, life expectancy expands through at least age 40. Megan herself has been the benefactor of drugs developed due to research done by the foundation.
Donations to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation from Summit County come not only from the rock sales, but a summer garage sale (held in July this year) and the Great Strides Walk and 5K Run (to be held Aug. 10 in Frisco), among various other smaller events.
Last year, the Great Strides event raised more than $40,000 for the foundation. The goal has been set this year at $52,000.
“It’s amazing. Every little area of the community steps up,” said Kim Andersen, Megan’s mom and organizer of the Great Strides event. “It gets bigger every year.”