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Runners in the 65 Roses 5k as they reach the finish line.

About a thousand participants came out to Lee University for the 19th annual Great Strides charity walk and 17th 65 Roses 5k run on March 30. This year participants were able to raise $42,000 in funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF). 

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease which causes reoccurring lung infections and limits breathing as time goes on. Cystic Fibrosis patients are fighters, every day they must live with their condition and fight against it from controlling their lives. 

This is why events like Great Strides are more than a walk, they are a celebration of life.

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Great Strides came to Cleveland as a result of Lee University President Dr. Paul Conn participating in a Great Strides walk in Chattanooga and realizing the benefit a walk in Cleveland could have.

Great Strides is a national charity walk with over 450 walks across the country, according to Senior Development Director of the CFF East Tennessee Chapter Jolly Johnson. 

“In Cleveland [CFF] started in large part due to the Hammond family and Dr. Conn," Johnson said. "They attended the Chattanooga walk and believed it was something they could do at Lee and 19 years later here we are.”

The 65 Roses 5K, which coincides with the walk, has multiple divisions of runners and many were awarded, but the focus of the event is not on who got first or second, but rather a statement of the progress those who struggle with CF have made.

Organizations like CFF work to try and make the inconveniences of treating CF as easy as possible and Great Strides is one of the products of that effort.

Students around campus have consistently participated in this event every year, either by running, raising awareness, donating funds or helping to facilitate the event.

Student Leadership Council (SLC) in particular had hoped to raise $5,000 this year to go toward CFF.

Efforts to raise awareness and funds from the community allows CFF to work toward finding treatments and cures for those battling Cystic Fibrosis. 

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Boys from Medlin Hall came out to Great Strides. 

“I truly feel a sense of connectedness to the CF community,” said junior nursing major and SLC member Kirstin Griffin. “As new treatments come out, and eventually a cure, we will celebrate those moments alongside these families.”

Senior business major Marcus Castro was a participant in this year's Great Strides and said the beauty of the event is that just participating is helping a patient with CF greatly.

“Many times, it feels like you have to perform such tremendous acts just to make a dent in a project like this,” said Castro. “However, Lee makes it manageable for anyone to help make great strides towards a cure.”

The Great Strides of Cleveland alone has raised over a million dollars over the past 19 years and it will continue to raise funds to aid CF patients with their battles and raise awareness about the genetic disease in the years to come.

For more information about Great Strides, visit the CFF website.

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