Dedicated dads all want the best in life for their daughters.
But if there’s a heart-wrenching challenge along the way – such as faces 11-year-old Piper Suit – that daddy dedication becomes extra special.
At age 4, Piper was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a disease that causes mucus build-up in the lungs, pancreas and other organs, and invariably leads to infections and the inability to break down food and absorb vital nutrients.
Proactive ever since receiving the devastating news, Piper’s dad Travis found out through extensive research that ocean salt air can be beneficial to people fighting CF.
From that revelation sprang a 70-mile, fund-raising ocean marathon paddle from Bimini in the Bahamas to the Florida mainland.
Travis and a couple of friends did the inaugural marathon in 2013, and since then it has become an annual fixture called Crossing for a Cure – under the auspices of the Piper’s Angels Foundation formed by Travis.
In fact, the marathon has become so popular in the past couple of years that paddlers affectionately, and simply, refer to it as “The Crossing.”
Paddlers can use SUPs, surf skis, outrigger canoes, long boards, hydro bikes and even rowboats, if they wish.
Significantly, fundraising associated with the marathon is aimed at helping anybody fighting CF. It’s done on an application basis.
All this is very close to the heart of Marco Islander Josh Ferris, who met Travis around the time Piper was diagnosed.
Ferris, an avid waterman and also a Marco police officer, has so far done two crossings (in 2017 and 2018) and is at the moment gearing up for the next one on Father’s Day weekend in 2019.
That includes intensive paddling in the months leading up to the crossing, and also paying close attention to his diet.
It’s a grueling 12 to 15 hours on the water, no question.
“But it’s easy to give,” says Ferris. “It’s worth it when you see where your efforts are going.”
He added that he is particularly pleased that Piper’s story as well as the marathon has inspired islander Jessica Simon to put together a local relay team for the 2019 crossing.
Marco Islanders who’d like an illuminating look at the crossing can do so Nov. 16 at Mackle Park when Ferris is due to show a beautifully produced documentary before the traditional “Movie in the Park.”
It features beginning, middle and end footage (with some awesome drone coverage included), and also some impassioned dialogue from Travis as well as other participants.
Ferris will talk about the movie and the crossing at a reception beginning 4:30 PM.
Coastal Breeze News has been a sponsor since the get-go, and earlier this year hosted a visit by Travis and Piper that culminated in the adoption of a burrowing owl in her name.
Ferris aims to collect as much money as he can for the foundation in the coming months, and his message to potential donors moved by Piper Suit’s story is simply: Be generous.