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300-plus step up, help girl fight CF

May 18, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

SMITHSBURG -- Kaelii Stout doesn't want people to think she's different.

But she is.

Not because she takes more than 25 pills a day or undergoes daily chest therapy.

Not because she has nightly tube feeds and numerous nebulizer treatments.

She's different because she won't allow cystic fibrosis to rule her life.

An athletic 14-year-old, Kaelii plays soccer and runs track at Williamsport High School.

She likes hanging out with her friends and doing all of the things kids her age do.

"I'm just like everybody else, she said. "I just happen to have CF."

Kaelii was 2 months old when she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system.

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"After the shock came the education," said Kaelii's mother, Paula Kriner. "I had no clue what cystic fibrosis was. But I quickly learned."

She also discovered that the only thing that stands in the way of a cure is the need for additional funds to support research.

Wanting to do her part, Kriner organized a local walk to raise not only money, but awareness.

"Our first walk, we had just a handful of people," Kriner said. "It was mostly family and friends. But I felt we had to start somewhere. And this was a good foundation."

That was nine years ago.

On Saturday, more than 300 people arrived at Smithsburg Lions Club Park to participate in the annual Great Strides walk to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

"I'm thrilled with the turnout," Kriner said. "Over the years, we have continued to see this event grow with sponsors, donations and teams of walkers. It's a great feeling to have that kind of support."

The local walk is one of hundreds held across the United States, with proceeds going to research, she said.

The event also included an auction of merchandise donated by area businesses, including gift certificates, Baltimore Orioles tickets and craft items.

Kriner said a goal of $40,000 had been set for this year's walk.

"Every dollar helps in finding a cure," she said. "A few years ago, the life expectancy for someone with CF was 32. Today, it's 37. The news is very encouraging."

Among those raising money for research was Kaelii's Crew, which included Kaelii's family and a large number of her friends from school.

"They wanted to be here," Kaelii said. "They know all about my CF and are really supportive."

Kriner said Kaelii recently was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis-related diabetes and has two insulin injections daily.

In February, Kaelii was hospitalized at Johns Hopkins for several days due to her declining lung function and continued a three-week course of antibiotics.

"But she doesn't let any of this stop her from enjoying life," Kriner said.

"I'm just one of the girls," Kaelii said.

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