Smithtown runners are preparing to take big strides and breathe deep to support a local nonprofit that helps people suffering from cystic fibrosis.
The Breathe for Britt Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting people suffering from cystic fibrosis and their families, will be hosting its 4th annual Breathe for Britt 5K run/walk June 2 at the Smithtown Elementary School. The funds raised from the race will be used to support the foundation in its efforts to help those diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and their families.
“This race lets people become aware of what CF is and what the foundation has to offer to them and those with CF who might not know this is offered to them,” Louise Nichols, the co-race director for the Breathe for Britt foundation, said.
Started in 2015, the race has grown to have 150 runners last year of all ages. Laura Bence, director of the Breathe for Britt Foundation, said she expects a similar number of people to attend this year’s event.
The foundation runs multiple programs to emotionally and financially support those suffering from cystic fibrosis and their families. The organization has bought groceries, laptops and even paid the electric bills for
affected families who could not afford it. Bence and her organization has also helped patients make doctors’ appointments and taken them to the hospital when they had no other means.
The nonprofit also provides opportunities such as doing salon work for the patients in their hospital beds and even larger events like Gimme-a-Break! Day, when every month a different patient from the Cystic Fibrosis Center of Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park is brought on a day out to a concert, amusement park, sporting event and more.
“Some of our patients can be in hospitals for months at a time, and it can be so difficult to feel normal,” Katherine Henthorne, a cystic fibrosis social worker at Cohen’s Medical Center and Long Island Jewish Medical Center said. “It’s just so important for their quality of life. Some of our patients are affluent, they are wealthy and they have things, and other families don’t. They have to make them feel like normal people.”
The foundation is named after Brittney Braun, a young woman with who died from complications of cystic fibrosis at the age of 14. Those who remember her know that she had a knack for putting life into perspective.
“She had a lot of spunk, a lot of personality, even if she went through a lot,” Bence said. “She was the type of person that you had to earn her love and respect, but once you did she was amazing. She had such a big impact on my life in the years that I knew her.”
Kings Park resident Brian Kane, who volunteered at Stony Brook University’s Children Hospital and became Brittney’s godfather, helped to found the organization along with Bence. He passed away in 2012.
Bence said she remembered how shortly after Brittney’s death Kane gathered her and others who knew Brittney so they could focus their loss into something positive.
“[Brittney’s] story was very sad, but to have this in memory of her, it’s really amazing.”
“I took the [director] position to honor both of their memories,” Bence said.
Cystic fibrosis is a disease caused by a genetic mutation that forces the body to produce a thick mucus along the organ’s lining. That mucus builds up over time in the lungs, pancreas and other organs, trapping in bacteria that can lead to infections and extensive lung damage.
Approximately one out of every 31 people in the United States are carriers for cystic fibrosis, according to the nonprofit Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. If both parents are carriers, there is a 25 percent chance the child will be born with the disease. The average life expectancy for those afflicted who live past childhood is approximately 43 years, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
“Most of our patients unfortunately die from respiratory failure,” Henthorne said. “[Brittney’s] story was very sad, but to have this in memory of her, it’s really amazing.”
The Breathe for Britt 5K will take place at Smithtown Elementary School, located at 51 Lawrence Ave. in Smithtown. Preregistration costs $25 for adults, $20 for those age 17 and under. Day of registration costs $30 for adults, $25 for those age 17 and under. Awards will be given to the top three male and female
finishers in each age group.
Check-in will run from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. with the race starting at 9 a.m. rain or shine. For more information, contact the race director at firstname.lastname@example.org.