Volunteering for a Cure
The typical high school junior is more concerned with fun, than with fundraising. But Kurt wasn't like most high school juniors. Inspired by Lance Armstrong's book, “It's Not About the Bike,” the young boy decided he wanted to raise money for a cure. The cure he sought, however, was not the cure for cancer. It was the cure to the disease he'd been living with since birth. Cystic fibrosis.
Kurt, now 24, was just 16 years old when he organized his first fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The fearless teen spent more than a year planning a charity golf tournament and, despite the fact that the date for the tournament fell just after 9-11, he raised a whopping $19,000. Given his age, his fundraising inexperience, and the fact that the average charitable golf tournament in the U.S. raises about $6,000, Kurt's accomplishment would have made Lance Armstrong take notice.
“I really discovered that fundraising is a passion of mine,” says Kurt. “And, when the event finally does happen, it's the best feeling ever.”
Passion. Optimism. Dedication. Those are all qualities used to describe the young man who went on to graduate from college, and now serves as the chair for his local Great Strides walk, a director for the United States Adult Cystic Fibrosis Association, and is a frequent contributor to “CF Roundtable,” a newsletter for adults who have cystic fibrosis. And all this while working full-time and keeping up with his treatments.
“One of these days we're going to break through and actually find a cure for CF; and not just for me, but for the 30,000 people across this nation that have cystic fibrosis,” he says. That zeal for finding a cure inspired Kurt to be transparent about his health at college in order to educate the people whose lives he touched.
“Somebody would ask, 'Why are you coughing?' (that's a question you get a lot), and I would explain that I have cystic fibrosis,” he says. He would then encourage friends and acquaintances to ask questions about his CF, if they had any.
“Raising awareness is equally as important as raising money, because if we don't raise awareness, then we can't raise money to find a cure,” Kurt says.
Today, the fundraiser's admiration for Lance Armstrong is as deep as it ever was. In fact, the avid athlete lives in an apartment where Armstrong paraphernalia decorates the walls against which tennis rackets, bicycles and golf clubs rest. Someday, Kurt hopes he can turn his fundraising focus on other sights.
“I wish I didn't have to fundraise for cystic fibrosis, but the reality is that there is no cure for CF right now.” He pauses and smiles. “But there is one right around the corner.”