Officer Josh Ferris will once again be taking part in Crossing for a Cure, an endurance challenge aimed at raising money for families with cystic fibrosis. Submitted Photo
While paddle boarding 75 miles across the open ocean may not appeal to most, for Josh Ferris it’s become an annual adventure he eagerly anticipates.
“One of the biggest things is just preparing for it,” Ferris said.
The Marco Island Police Officer has been training daily for Crossing for a Cure, an event aimed at raising money for families living with cystic fibrosis. Participant’s paddleboard, kayak, or canoe from the Bahamas all the way to the shores of Dania Beach, Florida. Each participant is tasked with raising at least $1,000 for the cause.
According to Ferris, last year’s crossing was the “the largest charity-based paddleboard event ever,” raising over $130,000.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes a buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and other internal organs. Over time, the mucus buildup leads to clogged airways, limiting a person’s ability to breath while simultaneously increasing their risk of infection.
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the median predicted survival age for a person with CF is around 40-years-old. As of yet there is no cure for cystic fibrosis, though science has come a long way in terms of treatment.
The Crossing for a Cure event was created in 2013 by Ferris’ longtime friend Travis Suit. Suit’s daughter Piper was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease when she was just four-years-old. Now at age 10, she’s undergone hundreds of hours of extensive treatment to slow its progression.
On the Crossing for a Cure website Suit writes, “Piper has a double F508 gene which is a very aggressive form of CF. Immediately I realized the need to get involved in a big picture way.”
The endurance event was inspired by Suit’s research into the health benefits that the ocean can provide those living with CF.
Crossing for a Cure will take place over Father’s Day weekend. And this year Suit has added different elements to the challenge. Participants can now compete for a cash prize in a relay team or individually. All paddling vessels, including kayaks, are eligible to partake.
One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to benefit Piper’s Angels, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization named eponymously after Piper. Their mission is to “support and improve the lives of families in the cystic fibrosis community through heightened awareness and providing education, life expanding activities, and urgent financial support.”
For those participating in the event, the enormous and overwhelming physical challenge combined with the emotional component of Piper’s condition gave a greater meaning to the their crossing.
“I was in so much pain it was almost as if I was watching myself paddle,” Ferris said. “I could only focus on right in front of me. It literally felt like my body shut down and it was only using what I had to paddle forward. That was it. When I got off the board it was just an emotional relief.”
For Suit, reaching the shore after 13 hours of paddling was more than a cathartic experience. He said it was as if “everything else in the universe just faded and it didn’t matter.” When he reached Piper they embraced. And though a beach full of friends and family surrounded them, in that moment it was just Piper and her dad.
“Piper has inspired so many people and she’s inspired me in a way and has helped me become a better human being, a better dad, a better version of myself,” Suit said.
A new endeavor for the Piper’s Angels organization is something called Salt Supply, an initiative to develop the world’s largest ocean-based activities network for people living with cystic fibrosis. Suit is looking to grow a social media-like website that allows people with CF everywhere to interact and encourages them to seek out ocean activities. If you are a saltwater based company and would like more information visit: www.saltsupply.org
If you would like to join MIPD Officer Josh Ferris ‘Cross’ for a Cure then visit: www.crossingforacure.com. There they have information on how to sign-up as either a paddler or a support boat. If you would like to help Josh Ferris reach his fundraising goal of $30,000 visit: www.crowdrise.com/ CrossingForACure2018.