Summit County’s Great Strides events benefits Cystic Fibrosis Foundation |

Summit County’s Great Strides events benefits Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Team Tony celebrates as Tony Madonna crossed the finish line during the annual Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides Walk last year.
Bill Linfield | Summit Daily News

Great Strides Family Walk and 5k Race

  • Date: Aug. 10
  • Location: Frisco Adventure Park, 621 Recreation Way, Frisco
  • Time: Registration at noon, event starts at 1 p.m.
  • Pre-registration is not necessary, but those wishing to do so (or to make a donation if they cannot attend) can contact Kim Andersen at href=""
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Megan Andersen is your typical 14-year-old girl. Transplanted from Dallas, Texas, to Summit County in 2007, she has embraced the mountain lifestyle. She joined the Team Summit ski team, spends a lot of time outdoors and is looking forward to becoming a high school freshman in the fall.

Along with the usual cares and concerns of a young teenager, Megan has one other issue to deal with that her friends and classmates do not. At age one and a half, Megan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects the lungs and has no known cure.

Megan is one of 30,000 people in the United States and one of at least two in Summit County with the disease. It is for Megan and 23-year-old Breckenridge resident Tony Madonna that Summit County residents will gather this Saturday for the sixth year of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Great Strides walk/run in Frisco.

Great Strides

The event originated among a small group of family and friends at the park in Dillon several years ago. Kim Andersen, Megan’s mom, estimates that they raised about $5,000 that year.

Since then, the community has become involved, swelling the number of participants and raising tens of thousands of dollars. Last year, for example, the event sent more than $38,000 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The money goes to fund research projects that produce new drugs to treat the disease as well as toward the search for an ultimate cure.

Since she was diagnosed, Megan’s “absolutely been the direct beneficiary for what the foundation has done,” Kim Andersen said, referring to new drugs that have come out in the last 14 years that weren’t available when Megan was born. “Someone born today with cystic fibrosis has a whole other opportunity ahead of them.”

Great Strides events take place all over the United States and are the national foundation’s largest funding source, raising $60 million nationwide in 2012. At this year’s event at the Frisco Adventure Park, Andersen hopes to reach $45,000.

The event features two options — a family friendly 1.5 mile walk and a 5K race with prizes for the winners. Those who cannot participate in the walk or race can still donate, as well.

In addition to raising money, Andersen hopes that more people will learn about cystic fibrosis through the event.

“Part of our goal with Great Strides is to raise awareness, too, so that people realize this is something we have to cure,” she said. “It’s the No. 1 fatal genetic disease (in the U.S.).”

Everyday life

Cystic fibrosis causes the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs, leading to life-threatening lung infections and obstructs the pancreas, stopping natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website.

That means treatment of the disease and its symptoms must be constant. Megan does respiratory treatments and takes upwards of 60 pills every day. She also goes in for two-week-long antibiotic “tune-ups” in Denver twice a year.

Fortunately, Megan has support from her family and friends. When she missed her middle school talent show during a “tune up” treatment, for example, her class arranged a front row iPad setup with Skype so she could watch the entire performance.

“All her friends are great about supporting her,” Andersen said. “Everyone’s very respectful.”

Connecting with other people with cystic fibrosis is difficult because of the nature of the disease. Because of the danger of cross-contamination, people with cystic fibrosis need to maintain a physical distance of about two arm lengths, said Andersen.

Despite all the challenges she faces with cystic fibrosis, Megan finds time to have fun and enjoy her hobbies. This week, for example, she is finishing up ski camp in Mt. Hood, Ore., with Team Summit. It means she has to take care of her daily treatments on her own, away from family, but her teammates are there to support her. After all, Megan isn’t about to let her cystic fibrosis dictate her life choices or define who she is.

“She has a really positive outlook, and Tony (Madonna) is the same, he’s very positive too,” Andersen said. “They have respect for their disease and know they have to take care of themselves.”

Community support

When it comes down to it, after all the medicines and treatments and doctor’s visits, the way that Andersen and others can best help Megan is to hold events like Great Strides to further research.

“The community has completely rallied behind us,” Andersen said. “Sponsors, participants, volunteers, they have absolutely been awesome and our family’s group of friends, they just show up every year. I don’t even really have to ask. Everybody’s there and everyone’s so generous. We are so lucky, this community is amazing.”

Megan, too, has felt the support from Summit County. During a break from camp at Mt. Hood, she sent a text:

“I am so thankful that all my friends and family take the time to come walk and raise money for CF. This walk will really help me in the long run because the more money we raise the faster we will be able to find a cure for not only me but all the kids/adults with CF.”

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