Great Strides Set for April 13

Monday, February 04, 2013

Alumni Hero
The thirteenth annual “Great Strides: Walk Today. Add Tomorrows.” will be held Saturday, April 13. Organizers of the event announced Cleveland business leader Beecher Hunter will serve for a second year as honorary chairperson for the Cleveland/Bradley Great Strides walk and 65 Roses 5K road race for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“All of us at Lee are grateful for Beecher Hunter’s willingness to lead the Great Strides event for a second year,” said Lee president Paul Conn in making the announcement. “He is one of the best-known leaders of our community, and for many years he has led Life Care, one of the best supporters of community causes of all types, and especially the Great Strides event and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It means a lot to us to have a person of his stature joining us in this unique event.”

The Cleveland Great Strides is sponsored jointly by Lee University and a group of community volunteers. Last year, over 700 runners, 25 teams of walkers, individuals companies and volunteers raised $70,590 locally to fund cystic fibrosis research. Great Strides is the CF Foundation’s signature fundraising event raising awareness and nearly $40 million in 2012 in over 650 communities across the nation.

“I am pleased to support the local efforts to find a cure for cystic fibrosis,” Hunter said. “The CF Foundation has made such terrific progress over the last 10 years to improve treatments and life expectancy for people with this disease, and the Great Strides walk and run provides a wonderful opportunity for Cleveland individuals and organizations to get involved.”

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a complex genetic disease which damages and eventually destroys the lungs of patients. Those who contribute to Great Strides are directly supporting research and drug development for the 30,000 children and young adults in the United States have been diagnosed with the disorder.

“We are unbelievably thankful to all of our Cleveland and Bradley County sponsors, team leaders, volunteers, donors, participants and, of course, Lee University for supporting Great Strides!” said Leigh Ellington, development director for the CF Foundation of East Tennessee. “Because of these individuals, and others who joined in Great Strides across the country, we were able to fund a new drug called Kalydeco, approved just last year.”

Kalydeco is the first drug of its kind targeting the root cause of cystic fibrosis for a small part of the CF population. It was named by Forbes Magazine “the most important drug of 2012” because of the life changing effects it will have for patients with cystic fibrosis as well as the assistance it can provide to other research groups looking to eradicate additional rare genetic diseases.

Lead sponsors for the 2013 Great Strides include First Tennessee Bank, Ralph Buckner Funeral Home, Ed Jacobs & Associates, Tri-Con, Inc., Garden Plaza at Cleveland/Life Care Center of Cleveland, Easy Auto, Bank of Cleveland, Caldwell Paving & Grading, Crawford’s Pharmacy, Paul & Darlia Conn, and People for Care & Learning. The Cleveland Daily Banner and Mix 104.1 FM are providing media sponsorship.

Serving with Hunter to lead the effort are Lee administrators Mike Hayes, vice president for Student Development, and Vanessa Hammond, CF parent and director of the school’s Office of Grants. The 5K road race will be directed by Dr. Bill Estes, a department chair in the Helen DeVos College of Education at Lee. The Student Leadership Council at Lee provides the volunteer support for the event.

Registration for the event will begin at 7:00 a.m. on April 13 in front of the Lee University Student Union. The 5K (3.1 mile) road race is scheduled for an 8:30 a.m. start, and the walk will begin at 10:00 a.m. The route begins on the Lee campus and goes through downtown Cleveland and the historic Ocoee Street area.

According to Ellington, “Lives are changing, but it will take an army of supporters to cure cystic fibrosis.” Anyone looking to participate in Great Strides or the 65 Roses 5K can visit the local event website at for information and online registration. To learn more about the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and team opportunities for Great Strides, contact Leigh Ellington at

Photo Caption:Beecher Hunter, Great Strides honorary chair, carries a banner to lead the 2012 Great Strides Walk along with student volunteers and CF family team leaders. Pictured (front l to r): Bethany Vance, Kelly Meeks of Team Destany, Hunter, Willa Smith of Team Nathan, Amy McHone of Dalton’s Gang, and Taylor Rodgers.