Taking strides against pulmonary fibrosis

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Ten-year-old Abigayle Clarke received a Great Kids Award for running laps around pulmonary fibrosis, and she isn’t ready to stop yet.

Presented by the Alberta government, the Great Kids Awards recognizes children that overcome difficult circumstances and are role models in their communities.

Clarke combined her passion of running with raising awareness about pulmonary fibrosis – a lung disease affecting many of her family members, including her grandfather and aunt, who lost their battles with the disease.

“One of Abbie’s cousins, who’s just a couple years younger than her, he’s only eight, he had it right from when he was about a year old,” Clarke’s father Darren said. “He spent the first three years of his life in the children’s hospital.”

There is no cure for the disease and although more research is required to determine what causes pulmonary fibrosis, it’s been linked to genetics, smoking and other illnesses.

The disease affects the lungs, forming harmful scars in the tissue of the vital organ, which makes it difficult to breathe.

Clarke wanted to raise money and awareness for the disease, which led to the creation of the Clarke’s Family Run for Pulmonary Fibrosis in 2016, an important addition to the annual Mayor’s Recreation for Life Run and Walk.

The 2017 run kicked off at Genesis Place Recreation Centre June 4, and although the Clarke family doesn’t know how much the event raised this year, last year’s event raised more than $6,000.

Out of 110 nominations, Clarke was one of 16 recipients in Alberta to receive a Great Kids Award this year.

“I was excited and happy,” she said. “I just want to keep going on with the race and see if I want to do anything else.”

The Clarke Family Run includes a walk or timed run around East Lake, with participants pledging money directly to combat pulmonary fibrosis.

Money raised from the Mayor’s Run also benefits Free for All Fridays at Genesis Place Recreation Centre, Special Olympics Airdrie and the Airdrie Aces Athletics Club – Darren is a coach and Clarke runs for the Aces.

“We’ve had a couple of people that actually suffer from pulmonary fibrosis actually do the walk around the lake,” Darren said.

Representatives from the Canadian Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (CPFF) and the provincial chapter attended the race, informing the Clarke family of just how important its activism and support is.

“We also found out that the race is actually the biggest fundraiser for pulmonary fibrosis in all of Alberta,” Darren said.

“Hopefully, one day, we can get a cure for this disease that affects our family and a lot of other families as well that we just got to meet through the race.”

The Clarke family appreciates the community support they have received as well as support from the Airdrie Aces Athletics Club, whose president organizes the Mayor’s Run.

For more information about the disease or to donate, visit cpff.ca

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