Teens taking steps for a cure

Friends form team for cystic fibrosis walk April 1

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Four Wilson teenagers gathered at Moe’s Southwest Grill on Sunday with T-shirts for friends who have signed up to walk in the Great Strides walk for cystic fibrosis on April 1 in Greenville.

The four teens have organized their walking team, Squad Up for CF, in support of research for the disease that affects someone they love.

Tilton Evans is 14, and his mom, Tonya Tilton-Evans, has CF. Gabe Cox, 14, Madeline Richardson, 17, and Ryan Richardson, 14, have been friends with Tilton since preschool, and they wanted to make a positive difference and help “Ms. Tonya.”

They have raised more than $800 for the walk already and have several friends signed up to walk.

“I’m really excited because Ms. Tonya is like my second mom,” said Gabe. “Anything to help her is a great opportunity.”

This will be the first year that the teens have walked for the cause. Last year, several of Tonya’s friends walked for Great Strides for the first time, and this year they asked their kids if they wanted to walk. The teens formed their team and have exceeded their monetary goal for the Greenville event.

“When I told my friends, they were really supportive,” said Madeline. “I think it was sweet that people would take the time to care about somebody I care about.”

Tonya Tilton-Evans, 47, has outlived the usual life expectancy for someone with CF.

According to the CF Foundation’s website, cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. Breakthrough treatments have added years to the lives of people with cystic fibrosis. The current median predicted survival age is close to 40. This is a dramatic improvement from the 1950s, when a child with CF rarely lived long enough to attend elementary school.

Immense advancements in research and care are enabling many people with CF to live long enough to reach their dreams of attending college, pursuing careers, getting married and having children.

“They’ve made great strides in coming up with new medicines and treatments, but still no cure,” said Tonya.

The Great Strides walk is to raise funds for research in treatments and in the drive to find a cure for CF.

“I feel really good about doing something to help someone like my second mom,” Ryan said of teaming up to help Tonya. “I’m also glad I can bring some awareness to it, because some people don’t know about it.”

The 3K walk will begin at 10 a.m. at Vidant Wellness Center, Greenville on April 1. Check-in will begin at 9 a.m.

More information about the walk can be found at www.cf.cff.org and then selecting Great Strides. Clicking on North Carolina and selecting the Greenville event will allow registration for walking in the 3K. Adults can help Tonya’s team, BFFs for CF. Youth can help by signing up under the teens’ team name, “Squad Up for CF,” or donate on behalf of one of the team members by clicking on the donate button by their name.

The four Wilson teens originated their team name and designed their own logo for their team T-shirts.

“I’m very proud of these kids for supporting me and raising money for CF,” said Tonya.

Tonya’s daily regimen includes one hour of breathing treatments twice a day. Growing up, she was active and able to play sports and dance because her lungs were healthier.

CF affects the lungs and pancreas, which deteriorate over time.

In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, lung damage and eventually respiratory failure. In the pancreas, the mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food and absorb vital nutrients.

Tonya said every CF patient is different. She was healthy enough to marry and have her son, who will turn 15 on the day of the walk.

“It’s quite an honor to be a mom,” she said.

When asked how he felt about the walk, her son, Tilton, said, “It’s about my mom.”