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FIU hosting walkathon for cystic fibrosis

Experts, survivors and their supporters join to raise funds to fight cystic fibrosis.

Florida International University alumnus Ernesto Calderin, 25, will be visiting his alma mater again — but not to hit the books.

Instead, he will be educating a crowd of supporters about a disease he has battled his entire life: cystic fibrosis.

On Saturday, Calderin will be one of many participants attending the West Dade Great Strides walkathon for cystic fibrosis at Florida International University’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus, 11200 SW Eighth St. The event will serve as a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis research, education and programs.

“It’s rewarding and it makes you feel good,” said Calderin of his efforts to spread awareness. He was diagnosed with the genetic disease at 3 years old.

Registration starts at 8 a.m. at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. The three-mile walk around the campus starts at 9.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, housed in Bethesda, Maryland, is devoted to curing and controlling the disease.

About 30,000 adults and children in the country are affected by cystic fibrosis, which causes life-threatening lung infections and serious digestive complications. More than 10 million Americans are symptomless carriers of the disease’s gene. According to the organization, the median survival age has improved from early childhood in the 1950s to almost 37 years .

At the event, participants will enjoy music, breakfast and lunch and other entertainment. Registration is free, but donations are encouraged. Medical experts and people diagnosed with the disease will also be on hand to educate the public.

“The disease is something that’s becoming manageable,” said Rebekah Kharrazi, chairperson for the walkathon. “People are now able to live longer, but thanks to research we see the life expectancy getting higher.”

Kharrazi said the goal is to raise $25,000.

The disease hasn’t stopped Calderin from having a normal life: He competed on his high school wrestling team, has traveled abroad and earned a degree in criminal justice. He credits fundraisers for helping to improve his life.

“It’s because of these efforts that hopefully there will be some sort of a cure; that is the intention,” said Calderin.

The affair is one of many taking place around the country and state. Last week, a walk was held in Islamorada. On April 17, a walk will be held in Key Biscayne and in Miami Lakes.

For more information, go to www.cff.org/great_strides.

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