Great Strides, Great Stories
Great Strides harnesses the power of people with a shared vision and encourages collaboration, team building, and leadership, as we pursue a cure. In this section, we’ll feature a special person or team who played an integral role in Great Strides and within their local CF community. We hope you find these stories to be inspiring as we continue to take steps towards the finish line.
Click here to meet others featured in the Great Strides, Great Stories series.
The Evolution of a Great Strides Ambassador:
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at just 2 months old, Kaitlyn has participated in a Great Strides walk every year of her life. From growing up in a military family attending various Great Strides walks across the country, to recently becoming the Virginia Chapter Great Strides Ambassador, Kaitlyn has played different roles over the years to raise awareness about cystic fibrosis. As a little girl, she was a natural ambassador – easily inspiring others to walk alongside her and her loved ones during Great Strides season.
Today, that role has grown and evolved. Kaitlyn, a college sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), is a leading local Great Strides ambassador – one of over 70 local ambassadors across the nation – who serves as a powerful voice for those living with CF.
“When I was younger, each year I would look up to someone else who shared their story, and it’s really cool that now I get to tell mine,” she said. Kaitlyn is also very involved in the planning process for Great Strides. With her passion for creativity and design, she takes her fundraising to the next level by designing her team shirts each year. Using her design connections at college, Kaitlyn has even found photographers and videographers to help her chapter with their design work. From sending welcome emails to new chapter members, to posting Facebook Live videos for the Virginia Chapter, she is the human face that encourages so many to become involved in Great Strides.
“It’s wonderful seeing everyone come together and walk for one reason,” she said. “Strangers, friends, family – having that support is really awesome – to look and see who will always be there to support you and will always be your number one fan no matter what happens.”
Today at VCU, Kaitlyn is double majoring in psychology and social work and aspires to be on a hospital healthcare team to council those with chronic, life-threatening diseases. Although she has been battling cystic fibrosis and CF-related diabetes for most of her life, she takes on the full schedule of a motivated college student – and then some. Along with juggling the daily stress of school work, Kaitlyn still manages to serve as an orientation leader, run the student section at basketball games, and act as a resident assistant.
“Because I have a ton of leadership roles at VCU, I get a lot of people I work with there to come to the walks, and they get to see a side of me that they don’t see day-to-day on campus,” she said.
Serving as the local Great Strides ambassador and as a full-time student can be hectic, but Kaitlyn focuses on the hope that she brings to those who are overwhelmed by the CF diagnosis. She takes all that she has learned over the years from living with CF and shares it so that others battling this disease feel less alone.
“The one takeaway I want from being an ambassador is to have a recently diagnosed person or family look at me and realize that there is hope,” she said. “I want to go up there, tell my story, and have at least one person know that it is going to be okay.”