Freshman raises money, awareness of sister’s disease

Aya Kawawa-Beaudan

This walkathon, organized by Great Strides, aims to raise money for research on Cystic Fibrosis.

Rather than sit and watch her younger sister struggle with a life-threatening disease, freshman Kayla Rose jumped in to join the fight.

11-year-old Katie Rose was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a disease in which thick mucus builds up in one’s lungs and pancreas and interferes with the body’s ability to digest and use proteins.

Treatment for the potentially deadly disease is still undergoing intensive research, but that research requires funding.

That’s where Kayla Rose comes in. This will be Rose’s third year as a team leader in Great Strides, an organization that fundraises for Cystic Fibrosis research through annual marathons.

The Rose children grew up attending Great Strides as a family, raising money for cystic fibrosis research while having fun at the same time. But as time went on and schedule conflicts cropped up more often, it became impossible for them to continue their family participation.

It wasn’t until seventh grade that then-Del Mar student Rose reconnected with Great Strides. Rose and her friend set up teams to join Great Strides for a community service project whose goal was to raise money and awareness in the area as they prepared to walk.

Rose and her friend made about $4,500, as well as more money that came in after the walk was over. Although she was one of the youngest team leaders at the event, Rose placed among the top five in terms of money raised.

The success of her team inspired Rose to participate the following year, with even greater success.

“It’s not that hard to do: you just go to the Great Strides website and sign up as a team leader,” Rose said. “Then as you recruit people, you add them and the amount they’re willing to donate to the roster.”

All the money raised in Great Strides goes to the Northern California chapter for cystic fibrosis research and testing, and this year Rose hopes to make even more than she has before.

Kayla Rose (left) has been a Great Strides team leader for the past three years.

“I definitely see myself continuing this throughout high school, and hopefully expanding my team here,” Rose said. “I’m thinking of putting up flyers or starting a club. The main goals I have are raising money and raising awareness.”

Rose’s end goal is to raise community awareness for and acceptance of cystic fibrosis.

“A lot of people have heard about cystic fibrosis, but I want them to know about it,” she said. “Having a sister with cystic fibrosis reminds me that a disease doesn’t necessarily define you.”

Rose hopes to continue spreading that understanding.

“Katie’s a normal kid, it’s not like people look at her and think, ‘Wow, she looks like she has a deadly illness,’” Rose said. “My biggest concern is how people see her after they know about her condition. I want them to understand the whole picture.”

To sign up for the Great Strides walk or donate money, go to www.cff.org/great_strides/.