Hunter students step up to battle disease they’re all too familiar with

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Photo by Brandon Hicks

A memorial for student Bethany Holder was constructed outside of Hunter Elementary School after Holder died on March 17 of complications from cystic fibrosis. The school is hosting a walk-a- thon to raise awareness about the disease and to raise money for research toward a cure.

A county school severely affected by cystic fibrosis is taking steps to raise awareness about the disease.
Hunter Elementary will host a fundraiser walk-a-thon on Friday, May 9, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with all of the proceeds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
The school is still mourning the loss of sixth-grade student Bethany Holder, who died on March 17 of complications from the disease.
A seventh-grade student is currently in the hospital in North Carolina in serious condition battling cystic fibrosis, and two other students, an eighth-grader and a first-grader, have the disease. Also, a Hunter Elementary teaching assistant’s son, who is in eighth grade at Unaka Elementary, has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Finally, a Hunter Elementary teacher has lost three brothers to the disease.
“It is unusual to have so many people affected,” said kindergarten teacher Amanda Barnett.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that affects the lungs and digestive systems of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States
First-grade teacher Amy Grubb said the school had already planned a walk-a-thon, but it was originally going to be a fundraiser for new playground equipment.
Now the event’s focus has changed.
“It is a cause that is close to the school’s heart,” Grubb said. “With everything that has been going on, we thought it would be good to have it go to cystic fibrosis awareness.”
Grubb said many people may have heard of cystic fibrosis, but were unfamiliar with it – or what it means for the person who has it.
“The general population is not aware how many people have this disease,” she said. “People can’t tell that the person who has it does. There are no outward symptoms until the person is sick.”
“We want them to find a cure and we want the children who have this disease to know we care,” Grubb said. “And we want Bethany’s family to know how it has affected the school.”
Barnett said the fundraiser was being done in a slightly different manner than traditional walk-a-thons. Instead of collecting money from sponsors for each lap a student walks, students are collecting lump sum donations for the cause.
“Whatever people want to give, whether it is $5 or $50, we will take it,” Barnett said.
The walk-a-thon will begin at 9 a.m. with a special opening ceremony featuring Bethany Holder’s parents, Gary and Patty Holder. Sixth-grade students will then release balloons before a special lap is made by people who have lost family members to cystic fibrosis; they will be given a chance to share their names. Then a lap will be held for students or others who are currently battling the disease. After that, all the students in the school will be able to participate in the event.
“It will be a special time,” Grubb said.
The younger students will walk laps on the school grounds, while older students and community members will walk laps on a designated route through the community. Barnett said the walk was open to anyone who wanted to participate.
“The community is welcome and encouraged to come,” she said.
She added that all students, regardless of whether they have a sponsor or not, will be able to participate in the walk-a-thon.
“We are doing it during a school day so all the students can walk and be a part of it,” Barnett said.
Grubb said the goal was to educate as many people as possible about cystic fibrosis while raising money for research on the disease. She noted that May was also Cystic Fibrosis Awareness month, which was something they did not know when starting to plan the fundraiser.
“It is all coming together nicely,” she said.
All who participate will receive a purple ribbon, made by students in the Carter Cares after-school program. T-shirts are available in limited quantities for $10 in the school office, or if any are left, the day of the walk.
Grubb said the Elizabethton Wal-Mart is partnering with the school to do the event. She said the business had also been touched by the disease. Bethany Holder’s mother and brother work there, as well as the grandmother of the student that is currently in the hospital.
The walk will be held rain or shine. Grubb asked that all visitors park at Hunter First Baptist Church near the school to keep the school parking lot clear for the event.
For more information, call the school office at 547-4074 or email Barnett at or Grubb at
Donations can also be mailed to Hunter Elementary School, attn: CF Walk-a-Thon, 145 Hope St., Elizabethton, Tenn., 37643.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website – – notes that a defective gene leads to thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections. It also obstructs the pancreas and keeps enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.
“In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school,” the Foundation notes, continuing that, “Today, advances in research and medical treatments have further enhanced and extended life for children and adults with CF. Many people with the disease can now expect to live into their 30s, 40s and beyond.”

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