Rockland County Rallies for CF In Memory of Local Student

BY MAUREEN MOLLAHAN

Back (l-r): Alison and Dave Place with (front l-r) Jesse and Melissa Place

Jimmy Place was not like other kids. “He was brave, strong, inspiring, always smiling. Family was big for him”, recalled his older sister, Melissa. “Now, my best friend is gone.” On June 3, the Walk for Cystic Fibrosis will be in memory of Jimmy.

This year will be the Third Annual Cystic Fibrosis Walk at Albertus Magnus High School. Both Melissa and Jimmy attended there, Melissa class of 2011, and Jimmy would have been class of 2014. The family hopes to raise $55,000 in his memory.

Jimmy died at 15 from a disease called Cystic Fibrosis, or CF. A genetic disease, patients labor in their breathing due to thick mucus in their lungs and often their digestive system suffers as well, mucus clogging ducts in their pancreas so foods are not properly digested.

This mucus also harbors multiple bacteria, which can lead to infections and other issues including frequent hospitalizations, possible lung transplants, and even death. As of right now, there is no cure. But his mother, Alison, his father, Dave, Melissa, and younger brother, Jesse will not stop fighting for Jimmy.

Two CF Genes must be passed on to the child, one from the mother and one from the father, for a child to have CF. If both parents have the gene, there is a one in four chance the child will have CF.

A record of hundreds of genes have been tagged and researched by doctors and have been named as CF genes, but researchers are concerned that there are more out there. The most common are the Delta F508, which Jimmy had two of.

Even though Jimmy is gone, traces of him are everywhere. A bench dedicated to Jimmy sits outside the school, as well as a photograph on the piano in the rotunda of the school. “The school is very supportive”, stated Alison, Jimmy’s mom.

Right now, over 30,000 people have been diagnosed Cystic Fibrosis in the United States. Worldwide, the number comes to about 80,000 people.

The walk itself is a 5K, around the track at Albertus. Beverages from Starbucks in New City, as well as Bagels from David’s Bagels in Valley Cottage will be served in the morning before the walk. A BBQ will be held after for all the walkers, food being provided by Boars Head. The local radio station, 92.3 will attend, playing music all day for those in attendance.

Alison hopes that this is the biggest walk in Rockland to date. She would like about three hundred people to attend. “People say they will show, but not many people have registered yet”, she says. “People can register at the walk”, she continues, “and also online.”

Alison hopes that other kids with CF follow Jimmy’s lead, and never give up. “Listen to your parents”, she said with a laugh. “They know what’s best for you. And do your treatments and take your medications!”

She also understands that as common as CF can be, not a lot of people are aware of the disease. “CF is deadly. It needs to be stopped.” Alison is determined to raise awareness and hopefully find a cure. This cure may seem far off, but the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has funded research of a new drug called Kalydeco, which can help patients with a specific type of CF gene.

“I will dedicate my life to bring awareness so a cure will be found,” says Alison. “So no one else endures what Jimmy did. And so no other family has to live with this.”

Anyone who would like to donate can do so online, at www.cff.org/greatstrides. Just scroll down to Greater New York Chapter and click on Albertus Magnus High School.

Anyone who would like to walk, Registration begins Sunday June 3 at 9 a.m., and the walking begins at 10 a.m. You can donate at any time at www.cff.org.