GREENFIELD — Morgan Ferguson learned her son had cystic fibrosis when he was 1 week old.
Now 7, Nathaniel Ferguson donned a balloon hat and a grin at Saturday’s event to raise money for research into the disease that shapes his every day but doesn’t dampen his spirits.
Well before most people wake up every day, people like Nathaniel have undergone hours of lung treatments just to be able to go about their day.
Families and friends of people living with cystic fibrosis celebrated their persistence last weekend at the 18th-annual Greenfield Great Strides walk, an 2K trek through Beckenholdt Park during which more than 200 people came together in a show of support.
The event raised about $35,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which conducts research into treatments for the rare disorder that prohibits normal function of the lungs and digestive system.
In the last 18 years, the group has raised nearly $750,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. More than 5,000 people have participated in the walk since its inception, founder Pat Parker said.
The walk had a goal of raising $45,000; about $17,500 was raised before the event, according to the Greenfield Great Strides website. Fundraising will continue until the end of the calendar year, said Morgan Ferguson, event co-chair.
“It is wonderful to celebrate another year, gather together and share our stories of success,” she said.
There’s a special bond among patients and families dealing with cystic fibrosis. They support each other through the good and bad days, said Pat Parker, who created the Greenfield Great Strides group in 2000 after her granddaughter, Katie Parker, was diagnosed with the disease.
The Parker family is nervous and excited for the teen, who just began a six-week travel abroad program in Dublin, Ireland, with her twin brother, who does not have cystic fibrosis, said their father, Todd Parker.
They family is excited, because Katie Parker loves to travel, but nervous because people with cystic fibrosis have a weakened immune system and are sick longer from bugs like the common cold, her father said.
The 19-year-old had to carry-on two extra bags with her breathing treatments and medications, Todd Parker said.
“Even though I’m nervous, I told her there’s nothing she can’t do,” he said.
People like the Parkers have worked through the Great Strides fundraiser to enable the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to find new treatments and medications that extend their loved ones’ lives.
Pat Parker honored the Lions Club during the walk’s opening ceremony for contributing to the walk every year since it began in 2000, providing a plaque to Lions Club member Dennis Porter. The club has faithfully supported Greenfield Great Strides for 18 years, providing encouragement to families helping their children to prevail over the symptoms of the disease, she said.
Rhonda Trebley, mother of 10-year-old twins Catherine and Clayton, both born with cystic fibrosis, said it’s encouraging to be around other people dealing with the disorder and seeing their achievements.
“It’s exciting to see the progress and how well those older kids are doing,” she said.