PRINCETON — Princeton’s first ever Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis Walk is being planned for Saturday, June 28.
The event is being brought to the area by Princeton resident Cheriz Kunkel, who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) when she was just a few weeks old.
The disease is a genetic one that can affect any number of organs, but primarily affects the lungs.
Today, at the age of 29, Kunkel has only 50 percent lung function. Each day, she is forced to do nine breathing treatments and take more than 50 pills to maintain her current lung function.
Kunkel is one of many local people who travel to other CF Walks around the state to raise awareness and funds to assist with research in the disease. This year, however, she thought, why not bring a walk to the Princeton area?
“We are hoping to make Princeton an annual walk site,” she said. “Great Strides is the CF Foundation’s largest national fundraising event. Each year, more than 125,000 people participate in hundreds of walks across the country to raise funds for CF research and drug development.”
According to Kunkel, there are crucial medicines currently being researched that could help people with CF.
“In fact, right now a drug that could help lessen the severity of my CF is currently in Phase 3 of the clinical trials,” she said. “It’s because of donations and awareness raised from these Great Strides walks that bring us closer to a cure everyday.”
This event will not only bring hope for Kunkel, but also for future generations.
“Growing up I watched all but one of my childhood friends pass away from this disease. It robbed some amazing kids of this lives,” she said. “All my life, the community of Princeton has been understanding, never judged me, never treated me different ... The community’s support has been amazing.”
While CF has its’ rough days, Kunkel is one person who doesn’t let the tough times get to her. In fact, she has embraced the disease. She said in college, her friends encouraged her to do stand up comedy about her CF and start her blog, which can be found at www.cheriz.org. The site has been crafted into her own space to update readers on her and the experiences she’s endeavored over the years. Also on the blog are briefs about her medical history, daily life and explanations behind some of the treatments she has to do to maintain her health.
On her blog page, she writes: “Why would I ever wish I wasn’t born with CF when I got to witness life changing stories everyday. Stories of love, hope and inspiration. I saw real struggles and obstacles. I saw people perserver and love life to the fullest.”
“I owe a lot of my character and personality to my stays in the hospital. Don’t get me wrong, the fact I haven’t been in one since 2008 and haven’t been on IV meds since 2012 doesn’t mean I want to stop my upward trend in health,” she writes. “It just means I’m thankful for the positives CF has brought me. It has made me tougher, more independent and mostly, more loving. For once, I stop to say thank you, CF.”
If this year’s walk is a success, Kunkel said the Great Strides Organization will be adding Princeton to the list of annual walk sites.
“This would be a dream come true, not only for me, but everyone I know in the community who has CF or knows someone with CF,” she said.
Interested participants can register online or make a donation to the organization at http://fightcf.cff.org/goto/Princeton. For those who can’t walk, but still want to fundraise, they may do so as a virtual walker or make a donation to anyone on the local Princeton Team online.
Kunkel is currently accepting donations to help pay for the walk’s costs. She is also in search of volunteers to run games, crafts, face painting and more on the day of the event. Those interested can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also on June 28, Princeton’s Culvers will be hosting a fundraiser for the Princeton Walk. From 5 to 8 p.m., 10 percent of the store’s proceeds will go to the CF Foundation.
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