5K raises more than 7K for cystic fibrosis

by Vadim Lavrusik

After kissing their 8-week-old daughter, Chelsea Votel’s parents noticed something unusual. Her skin was extremely salty – a warning sign of cystic fibrosis.

The parents’ concern proved to be true; Votel was diagnosed with a mild case of cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes buildup in the lungs and digestive tract, affecting about one of 3,000 children in Minnesota.

Votel, now a high school senior at Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights, joined friends and family to run the second-annual 5K Run for Research on Saturday, which was inspired by those with cystic fibrosis.

The 5K Run for Research, which was held on the University’s Minneapolis campus and partially sponsored by the Daily, helped increase awareness and support for cystic fibrosis research.

“It’s nice it is a younger crowd, and they learn about (cystic fibrosis) early, so that they are aware about it as they get older,” Votel said.

First-year biology student Jake Stricherz said he never had competed in a such a run before and thought it would be fun.

Stricherz finished 16th and was one of 415 runners who registered despite the cloudy, cold weather.

Pre-registered runners paid $10, and those who registered after March 15 contributed $15 to run in the event.

The run, which tangled its way around and through the mall area, featured students, adults and staff and faculty members dressed in ’80s-theme attire. Participants raised $7,500.

The money will go to the Minnesota Cystic Fibrosis Center at the University. Led by Dr. Warren Warwick, the center has established itself as a leading research facility for cystic fibrosis in the United States.

Marketing junior Kate Gustafson, who helped coordinate the event with the student-group Students Today Leaders Forever, said she grew up with the Votel family and felt the need to help others living with cystic fibrosis.

“I feel like (cystic fibrosis) has impacted me in words I can’t say ever since I was little,” Gustafson said. “I love the Votels.”

Dr. Robert Kempainen, who works in the Minnesota Cystic Fibrosis Center, said that because the disease is relatively rare, cystic fibrosis research often doesn’t receive as much funding as other research programs, yet researchers are closer to a cure each day.

“I think events like this are critical to make headway in research,” Kempainen said.

Kempainen, who ran marathons in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic, spoke about cystic fibrosis to the crowd before he ran in the race.

The race included students who want to contribute to the research and diehards training for marathons. The winner of the race received a gift certificate for New Balance shoes.

Gustafson said 100 percent of the money raised goes to research and the cost of the event was funded by sponsors.

Last year the event raised $5,100 with 364 people registered; those numbers increased this year. She hopes the event will become a University tradition.

Gustafson said the money raised this year will go directly to the University Cystic Fibrosis Center, as opposed to last year when it went to the national cystic fibrosis.

Votel, who comes to see Warwick at the University for check-ups, said events such as this one make people with cystic fibrosis feel like others care.

“I don’t see cystic fibrosis as a disease but more like a condition,” Votel said. “If you stay healthy and do the treatments, it is something you can live with.”