For the last year, the Coastal Breeze News has followed Marco Island Police Officer Josh Ferris as he prepared, fundraised, and eventually competed in the 2018 Crossing for a Cure, an endurance paddleboard event that raises money for families living with cystic fibrosis.
This June, after completing the epic journey, from the Bahamas to Lake Worth, Florida, Josh took home the honor of “Top Fundraiser.” Through donations and crowdsourcing he raised over $50,000 for the cause. In total, the event raised approximately $280,000.
But Josh’s story doesn’t end here. The officer has maintained a close relationship with longtime friend Travis Suit, creator of the event, and his 10-year-old daughter Piper, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 2011.
“It’s such a cool feeling knowing that the whole Marco Island community was rallied around Josh and Piper and this cause,” Travis said. “It’s unbelievable.”
To honor Piper, and to support Josh’s mission, the Coastal Breeze News adopted a burrowing owl through the Audubon of the Western Everglades’ Owl Watch program in Piper’s name. CBN also acted as a sponsor for the Crossing. The trio, Travis, Piper, and Josh, recently stopped by the Coastal Breeze News office to learn more about Piper’s owl, “Piper’s News.”
To kick off the day, Allison Smith, a graduate student from the University of Florida studying the owls, showed Piper a presentation about Piper’s News.
Piper’s News was banded in 2017 on Marco Island. Her backstory is filled with adversity and triumph. Last year, during a particularly rainy few days, her burrow was flooded and her owlets lost. Researches lost track of her for a time but she recently resurfaced at a new burrow on the island. Since then, she has found a mate and successfully hatched a handful of owlets.
Before heading out to visit Piper’s News’ nest, Travis filled us in on how the money raised during the Crossing for a Cure will affect families living with a cystic fibrosis diagnosis.
According to Travis, organizations like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation are laser focused on finding a cure. 92 cents of every dollar raised goes directly towards research. The organization has made huge strides in prolonging the lives of people living with CF. In the 60’s, the average life expectancy for a child with the disease was 10-years-old. Today it’s 37.
However, the cost of the life saving medications can take a toll on many families. Which is where the Piper’s Angels Foundation, Travis’ 501(c)(3) nonprofit, comes in. Proceeds from the Crossing for a Cure benefit the nonprofit, which helps support families living with CF who are met with challenging finical circumstances.
“When you live longer with a disease that can take a finical toll on the family, it can have a physical, psychology and emotional burden on the patient and the family,” Travis explained. “So you see a lot of patients who are running into depression, they’re running into different issues arising out of the length of time they’re on the pharmaceutical drug.”
The organization’s mission is to support families by providing educational opportunities, life expanding activities, and urgent financial support to those in need. You can find out more about the Piper’s Angels Foundation by visiting www.pipersangels.org.
Following the talk in the office, the group hopped into their cars and headed over to Piper’s News’ nest. Piper (the human) was able to get an up close look at one of Piper’s News’ babies. Allison was there to answer any questions Piper had about burrowing owls and even showed her the insides of an owl pellet.
The Coastal Breeze News will continue to provide updates on both Piper and her owl. For more information about Crossing for a Cure visit www.crossingforacure.com. To adopt your very own Marco Island burrowing owl go to www.audobon-of-the-western-everglades.networkforgood.com/projects/48771-adopt-an-owl.