One passing by First Presbyterian Early Learning Center on Friday morning would have seen the students marching around the building and chanting "cure found, cure found!"
While at first an odd sight, the children’s actions were out of compassion for fellow students.
Deana Graham, ELC director, said two families of children with cystic fibrosis found each other through the school and had become support systems for each other. Sophia Hawley was diagnosed with CF while in pre-K at ELC and now her brother Kendall Hawley attends. Mackenzie Losch, an ELC student, has an 18-month-old sister, Torianna, who was diagnosed with CF at birth.
"We were blown away," Kendra Losch said of her daughter’s diagnosis. "We knew nothing about it, not even how to spell it."
The Losch’s soon became experts on their baby’s condition, defined by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as "an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that: clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections; and obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food."
Losch said life expectancies for CF patients in the 80s barely extended through elementary school. Today, the average life expectancy is 37 thanks to breakthroughs in medication and technology such as a vest that mimics coughing. Torianna received her vest, used concurrently with a breathing treatment, last week.
Saturday Losch and her husband, Torry, along with family and friends participated in the Atlanta Great Strides event, which is the CFF’s largest national fundraiser for researching a cure. There are seven Team Torianna’s across the country, with family and friends of the Losch’s participating.
Together Graham and the Losch family organized a mini-event at ELC to teach the children about CF as well as raise money for Team Torianna.
For about a week, ELC students brought in "Coins for a Cure." Graham said the staff used the fundraiser as a way to teach students about currency as well. One day children brought pennies, the next nickels and so on up to dollars.
On Friday, students marched around the building for 20 minutes shouting "cure found" as a phrase they wanted to replace the initials "CF." Graham said the school had 100 percent participation through coin collecting or walk sponsors.
"I think they’ve gotten the idea that they can do something for somebody," Graham said. "Even if they don’t fully understand."