Running Toward a Cure
The first time she ran the 16-mile Lost Lake Run, CIRI shareholder Sabrina Walker (Tlingit) was greeted by a face at each half-mile marker. The faces weren’t those of cheering fans; they were photos of Alaskans who had been affected by cystic fibrosis (CF).
Sabrina could relate. Since the age of four, she has worked to maintain a healthy lifestyle while dealing with CF, a genetic disorder that mainly affects the lungs. Today, at age 29, Sabrina manages her CF with daily doses of nutritional supplements, enzymes, antibiotics and, most of all, running.
“Running, for me, has been a huge asset,” Sabrina explains. The activity helps clear her lungs and lets her maintain a high level of fitness. It allows her a measure of control over CF, for which there isn’t yet a cure.
Most of all, Sabrina says, “Running is something positive I can do for myself, but I’m also doing something for a whole community of people. I do the Lost Lake Run to raise funds for CF because I want to see a cure in my lifetime.”
She has completed Lost Lake every year since 2012. In that time, her fundraising team – made up of friends and family – has grown to 26 members, all of whom are running under the team name “Sabrina Fights CF” this year. The course is a steady, approximately 10-mile uphill climb from the Primrose Campground at milepost 17 on the Seward Highway; it continues downhill on a U.S. Forest Service trail through the Chugach National Forest for another six miles to the finish line at the Bear Creek Fire Department in Seward. Peak elevation is 2,100 feet.
It’s a tough trail race, but it’s worth it, Sabrina says. “It’s a rigorous course, and at the finish line, they have pictures of people with CF who have passed away. So it’s this wonderful but sad journey toward this bigger goal – to find a cure.”
Sabrina first started fundraising for CF after graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in elementary education. Thanks to scholarships from The CIRI Foundation, she left school debt free. But after substitute teaching for a year, she realized her immune system couldn’t handle being around kids with colds and runny noses. “If I catch a cold, it puts me at risk for a bigger infection, like pneumonia,” she explains – and that could land her in the hospital.
So Sabrina did what she calls a “career U-turn.” Today, she works as an administrative assistant for the Alaska Native Studies program at the University of Alaska Anchorage. “I enjoy working in the Alaska Native community,” she shares. “Being Alaska Native is part of my identity and my culture, and it’s something I take a lot of pride in.”
So is her status as a CIRI shareholder. “My grandfather was a CIRI shareholder,” Sabrina says. “My mother is, I am and I look forward to my son being one some day. Anchorage is a melting pot, and CIRI, as a corporation, really represents that. I think standing together is important. CIRI reflects that unity of past generations, the current generation and generations to come.”
This year’s race takes place on Aug. 27. Learn more at www.lostlakerun.com.