Thirty participants armed with shotguns and another 30 spectators gathered at the Snowshoe Gun Club in Kenai with one goal in mind: help find a cure for cystic fibrosis.
On Saturday the Snowshoe Gun Club hosted the first Kenai Peninsula Shoot for the Cure fundraiser, a shooting clay sporting event that raises awareness and funds for patients with cystic fibrosis.
Shoot for the Cure founder Karen Rey, of Anchorage, knows all too well the struggle families and patients with cystic fibrosis endure.
Rey’s daughter Mattie Deaton, 22, was first diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 2. At age 15 she became deathly ill and was hospitalized for a bacteria infection in her lungs.
Deaton, is one of 60 Alaskans diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that makes the body produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening infections. Despite the continued efforts of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, no cure has been found.
According to statistics from the foundation, one in every 30 people in the U.S. carries the defective cystic fibrosis gene. Life expectancy for people with the disease is an average of 37 years.
Both Deaton’s parents carried the gene. Rey said Deaton takes a powerful intravenous antibiotic three times a day.
“She has 47 percent lung function and can’t run the length of a parking lot,” Rey said of her daughter. “She works with a personal trainer to keep her lungs healthy. She is starting college in Arizona and is trying to be like every other 22-year-old.”
Eight years ago, Rey founded Shoot for the Cure, a non-profit corporation to benefit those with cystic fibrosis through fundraising. Rey said she was motivated by a story of a young Alaskan man who needed a lung transplant and was set to travel out of state for surgery but died while waiting for the logistics of his travel to be figured out.
Nationwide cystic fibrosis affects 30,000 people. It is more difficult for Alaskans to receive treatment due to the remote distance and lack of resources, Rey said.
The idea for the fundraiser came from Rey’s interest in shooting sporting clays.
“I love to shoot and hunt and felt like it clay shooting could be a fun way to offer a unique event that people can come together for,” Rey said.
The first fundraiser took place in 2006 at the Birchwood Recreation and Shooting Park in Anchorage and raised $90,000, she said. Last May the event grew to nearly 200 participants in the shooting tournament at the same location along with a banquet and silent auction. In eight years, Shoot for the Cure has raised more than $1 million, she said.
Rey said donations to the foundation go toward grants and programs like an equestrian therapy program and scholarships to help kids receive tutoring while in the hospital. Rey has also worked with U.S. Congressmen Don Young, R-Alaska, who has lobbied for funding clinical trials for a drug, Arikace, which can help treat patients.
Since 2007, the foundation has awarded $300,000 in research to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.
“We always look for new ways to provide for local patients,” she said. “We want to help lift the burden of families.”
Rey wanted to expand the fundraiser to the Kenai Peninsula, said Steve Meyer, vice president of the Snowshoe Gun Club.
A five-stand clay shooting mobile station was brought down from the Birchwood Shooting Park, which gave local shooters who are used to skeet and trap shooting more variety, he said.
The entry fee for teams was $1,500 or $300 for each person in teams of five. Kenai corporate sponsorship included Kenai Spine, which donated $5,000 and $3,000 donated by Central Peninsula Hospital.
Teams competed in all-shot rounds of 75 clays. The Alaska Shooting Stars Youth Team with coaches Stu Goldstein and Bobby Cox won the overall event.
Meyer said the event was well attended and was for a worthy cause that the club board embraced. He said the club would like to continue the annual fundraiser, but might change the event to be held in the spring so more people can attend.
“With it being in the fall, a lot of gun club members are hunters and some people who would like to participate might be out of the loop,” Meyer said. “We look forward to promoting the event. We are all about supporting the community.”
Rey said she estimated the event raised nearly $20,000.
“This is my destiny to continue to raise awareness and fight for a cure,” Rey said. “I would like to get the word out to support patients in Alaska and find out what families need.”
Fore more information, visit the website www.alaskacfshoot.org.
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.