Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Paddling in Pursuit of a Cure From Bimini to Lake Worth

Josh Ferris in the home stretch, 250 yards off shore. | Photos by Steve Stefanides

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited life threating disease that damages the lungs and digestive system of those that it inflicts. It knows no socioeconomic boundaries and can be found in both children and adults, however most adults were likely afflicted early in life with symptoms slow to develop.

In November 2011, Travis Suit’s four-year-old daughter Piper began to exhibit symptoms of the ailment and was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of CF. Suit has made it his life’s mission to fight back against this terrible news by devoting himself to fundraising for research dedicated to improving available treatments, and hopefully someday, a cure.

The idea of a paddleboard challenge to raise awareness of CF would take Suit and two of his friends from the Bahamas back to the Florida coast. That challenge also served as an example of how the most difficult of goals can be accomplished if you put your mind to it.

Today, their work continues as the third Crossing For a Cure was held last weekend, when 100 paddlers, known as “Piper’s Angels” and “Crossing Crusaders” put it all on the line for the cause. They did so by not only paddling across from Bimini to Lake Worth, Florida, but by raising monies as pledges for their special quest.

Auctions and other events have been held the last six months to help support the effort and on Saturday a boat was auctioned to help fundraise for their cause.

Marco Island Police Department Marine Patrol Officer Josh Ferris was one of those to put it all on the line for little Piper Suit, when he entered the challenge for the second year in a row. He not only made the 80-mile trek across the Atlantic, but also raised over $50,000 for the cause in pledges. His original goal was $40,000.

Ferris was joined in his quest by Bob Marvin and Clayton Smith, both of whom serve with him as officers. Also joining them was Ryan Rump, the son of Clayton Smith, who was visiting from Ohio with his family. The vessel they used to support Ferris in his quest was owned by Paul Doppelt from Naples.

“I couldn’t have done it without these guys; they were my rock,” said Ferris, speaking about his support team.

Hundreds of supporters lined the boardwalk at the landing site on Lake Worth Beach in Palm Beach County starting around 10 AM to cheer on all the participants, with each arriving warrior or team greeted by Piper Suit herself to adorn them with the medal of participation and a big hug for their efforts.

It was an exhausted Ferris that stepped off his board and made his way up through a cheering crowd of well-wishers. Some of those came from Marco Island, such as the Stoller family, Alexis Lessard, Nancy Clark with Mitchell and her daughter Elizabeth, Mark Haueter and Johanna Velazquez, along with many others who made the 155-mile trek over to the East Coast beach to cheer on their local hero.

“There are a lot of people to thank that supported me, but nothing as nice as the hug I got from Piper when I worked my way up to the stage area where she placed the medal around my neck and joined me on the platform,” said Ferris.

“It was a wonderful day, for a beautiful little girl and a great cause,” said Ferris, a very proud “Piper’s Angel” who made a difference in the lives of many on that sunny Saturday at the beach. All of this before he comes back to keep residents and visitors safe on the waters around Marco Island.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *