Photos by Lori Griffith from Chasin A Dream Photography
PALM BEACH COUNTY, Florida - Travis Suit will stand-up paddleboard the 90 miles from Bimini, Bahamas, to West Palm Beach, Florida over the duration of approximately 24 hours.
The goal of Crossing For a Cure is to raise revenue and increase awareness for Cystic Fibrosis. With funding, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has been able to perform groundbreaking research and provide extensive care for cystic fibrosis patients.
Pledge For A Mile, CLICK HERE
Chanda Fuller, executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation – Palm Beach, explains the life-altering changes that have come as a direct result of the Foundation.
“Children who were once on the list to receive a lung transplant are now living a healthy life due to Kalydeco. One little boy regained his sense of smell after taking it. He now goes around smelling flowers, dirt, books and even rocks. He was thrilled the first time he smelled bacon,” said Fuller.
Approximately 30,000 Americans live with cystic fibrosis, and they are living longer now than ever before. On average, cystic fibrosis patients are expected to live into their late 30s, which is a vast improvement from the 1950s, when diagnosed children rarely lived beyond elementary school age.
Suit's now 5-year-old daughter, Piper, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in November 2011. Doctor after doctor dismissed her continuously being sick as normal childhood illnesses until a sweat chloride test was administered.
“It was the worst feeling in the world. As a parent, you live to keep your child healthy and happy, so to be in the dark for so long was torture. Each doctor's appointment got more disheartening, until finally someone suggested to get her tested for CF. To say that it is a relief to find out your child has a terminal illness sounds terrible, but that's the kind of mixed emotions your mind is processing, and it takes its toll. The seas may be rough, but at least at that point you have a beacon of hope for helping to make a difference,” said Suit.
The results of the sweat chloride test forever changed the lives of Travis, Piper, and their family. Piper was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cystic fibrosis. Upon learning that a saline nebulizer treatment, meant to mimic the lung-hydrating effect of breathing in sea water, is used to ease cystic fibrosis symptoms, Travis sought to find ways to incorporate the healing power of the ocean into Piper's life.
He immediately realized that he could take Piper out on a stand-up paddleboard, since she was too small to learn to surf. Where many other children cannot surf, they can still go out on a paddleboard and have access to the healing benefits of the ocean.
Knowing that many cystic fibrosis patients undergo double-lung transplants in their 20's, Suit, a bull-riding, Marine Officer Candidate School Graduate and surfer decided now was the perfect time for an epic journey, such as crossing the Gulf Stream. He had only been on a paddle board three times when the idea hit.
A large concern for the paddlers during the Crossing is the unpredictability of the weather. "Squalls can whip up in a half hour and can be gnarly and gone in a half hour, with possible 5-10 foot waves, blinding rain and lightning," said Suit.
Joining Suit are local paddlers Jesse Kautz, Shane Pompa, Joseph Morel and Kyle Igneri. These four men volunteered to join Suit on his journey through the Atlantic and Gulf Stream in the open ocean. The men, referred to as "Piper's Angels," were captivated by the cause and Suit's passion, volunteering to not only join for this journey, but to partake in a documentary.
The documentary will revolutionize the way information is presented to cystic fibrosis parents like Suit, who was overwhelmed with the abundance of information available. The weakness to the learning tools is that they are clinical. This documentary is something that a parent can sit down and watch, absorbing the realities of how this life-changing diagnosis will impact their family.
“I think it would have been more interesting to watch a film than simply just reading through literature.” Suit said, “I think it's important to emphasize all healing aspects of managing CF, and the connection between CF and being active around salt water needs to be better emphasized.”
The group will touch land at the Tiki Waterfront Sea Grill in Riviera Beach, where sponsors will be present for a dock celebration at the conclusion of the Crossing. There will be live entertainment, raffles along with other festivities.
“The support from all the sponsors and people pledging for miles has been overwhelming,” said Suit. “I get emotional all the time thinking of how generous and compassionate people are toward the cause and our goal. Witnessing altruism in action is one of life's greatest gifts and I feel so fortunate to be a part of that kind of positive energy.”
Sponsors Include: Tropically Impaired, Paddle Boarding Palm Beach, Sun Bum, Iron Lion Fitness Studio, Tito's Handmade Vodka, Venture Boat Company, Jimmy Lewis, Reflekt, NEILPRYDE, Power Design, Keiser University, Voigt Sports and Blueline Stand Up Paddle Surf & Clothing stand by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's goal of "adding tomorrows."
“I look forward to the day when I am out of a job, because a cure has finally been found,” said Fuller.
For more information visit www.crossingforacure.com.