VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (WTKR)- Cystic fibrosis impacts about 30,000 Americans and 800 Virginians. It affects the lungs, digestive tract and other organs and there is no cure. One Virginia Beach resident is fighting to change that, one mile at a time.
Shannon Lockhart's favorite place to be is on the water paddleboarding. Whether she's battling the waves or a blaze, the Virginia Beach firefighter is always pushing her limits.
"You have to worry about your nutrition, hydration, even on shift," she said. "You need to workout, be in shape."
That can be applied to both her job and her hobby. Shannon was introduced to paddleboarding by a friend, who invited her to take part in the Crossing for a Cure, an 80-mile challenge that sees participants paddle from Bemini, Bahamas to Lake Worth, Florida, benefiting cystic fibrosis research. She agreed, but never got the chance to take part, as COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 event and her board suffered damage prior to the start of the 2021 crossing.
"I immediately said yes without realizing what I was really getting myself into," Shannon smiled. "To train for the crossing, I signed up for paddleboard races all over and now I'm totally in love with the sport."
Along the way, she learned about a disease with no cure. Shannon is not impacted directly by cystic fibrosis, but met some patients through the paddleboard community, especially given the Crossing for the Cure's connection with the disease.
"The crossing has brought me closer to the community here in Virginia and has allowed me to meet people in the C-F community that I never would have met before," the firefighter noted.
On June 26, the woman who saves lives as her job will look to do the same with her hobby, embarking on her 80-mile journey to help find a cure. She'll have 16 hours to complete the crossing, which will likely feature encounters with sea life and plenty of mental hurdles, but nothing compared to the challenges cystic fibrosis patients face every day.
"The 80 miles represents all the cystic fibrosis warriors out there because they don't have the opportunity to give up or bow down on a hard day," pointed out Shannon. "They have to deal with it every single day."
"C-F is really rigorous," added Beth Saladino, senior development director for Cystic Fibroris Foundation's Virginia chapter. "You have a lot to do everyday to maintain your health. You don't get a vacation from C-F. You have to be very vigilant."
Many people put forth the effort for their respective causes. This is Shannon's way of giving back and doing her part, attacking the ocean like she does a fire- all in.
"When they stay involved and then go beyond, time after time after time, it just gives you the motivation and inspiration," Saladino said of Shannon's efforts.
"There is no cure for cystic fibrosis," noted Shannon. "I'm very lucky to be a part of their community and hopefully helping them achieve a cure someday in the future."
The Crossing for a Cure begins at midnight on June 26. Virginia Beach will be holding its own paddleboard event to benefit cystic fibrosis research on June 18, the Pipeline Paddle to a Cure, in Back Bay. There will be five mile and ten mile routes.
To learn more about cystic fibrosis and how to help find a cure, click here.