Walkers take Great Strides against Cystic Fibrosis

  • Walkers finish up the one-mile course through Veterans Park in Smithsburg Saturday at the annual Washington County Great Strides Walk to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
By Alicia Notarianni,

SMITHSBURG -- Kaelii Stout seems to have it all.

The 16-year-old Williamsport High School student is a soccer player and a runner on a Maryland state championship-winning relay team. She is bright and articulate, and dreams of becoming an elementary school teacher. She was excited to go to her high school prom Saturday night with a group of friends.

Though she's got all this, she also has something else that is decidedly less coveted.

Before she was 2 months old, Kaelii was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, an inherited respiratory and digestive disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in her lungs and digestive tract. When lung damage reaches a certain degree of deterioration, lung transplantation is sometimes a treatment option. The median age of survival for individuals with the disease is about 37, though half do not make that milestone.

Kaelii does two nebulizer treatments and takes about 30 pills each day. She uses a feeding tube to help meet her nutritional needs. Two years ago, she developed cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, which requires her to take insulin.


Though her closest friends are aware of her physical challenges, Kaelii says many people she knows have never heard of the disease and have no idea that she has it.

Kaelii participated Saturday in the Washington County Great Strides Walk at Veterans Park in Smithsburg to raise awareness of cystic fibrosis and to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She made a video about her experience with the disease and posted it on her Facebook page before the event.

"Every day, people I see in the hall at school have no idea I have (cystic fibrosis). The video made a lot of people realize what I go through every day," Kaelii said. "I hope people will become more aware and take a stand and raise money so researchers will find a cure one day."

Kaelii's mother, Paula Kriner, 35, has been chairwoman of Washington County's annual Great Strides Walk for the past 12 years. Kriner said about 250 people participated in Saturday's walk, which raised more than $49,000.

Johnny Arias, 28, of Hagerstown, lost his 21-year-old sister, Suley Arias, to cystic fibrosis just over two years ago. Now, his second daughter, Ashley, 3, has been diagnosed with the disease.

Arias said research done by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has led to significant improvements in medications and treatments since his sister was a child.

"With the medications nowadays, it's a very different story for my daughter than it was for my sister so far," Arias said. "So we are hopeful."

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