Living in Central Florida, a typical family probably visits the beach a couple of times per year. For the Keller family, founders of Pipeline to a Cure Florida, going to the beach a couple times a week is their norm.
Krista and Rob Keller have four children: two boys, two girls, ages four to 11. The two boys, Jackson, 4, and Camden, 8, both have cystic fibrosis (CF).
Four years ago, after studies surfaced connecting surfers with CF to an increased quality of life, the Keller parents decided to form Pipeline to a Cure. The organization’s primary goal is not to raise money for a cure for CF because “the CF Foundation has that covered,” explains Krista. Instead, Pipeline to a Cure aims to get CF families excited about surfing and the beach so they’ll be inclined to visit it more frequently.
The studies suggest that the salt in the air at the beach helps surfers with CF have better lung function, fewer hospital stays, and less of a need for medications. Pipeline to a Cure hosts a large family day event and four family surf days each summer in an effort to expose and encourage families to enjoy the beach. During the events, professional surfers volunteer their time to teach CF families – including siblings and friends – to surf. No need to BYOB (Bring Your Own Board), the organization provides those for use during the events.
The Keller boys receive treatment from the CF Clinic by Nemours in Lake Nona. The doctors and staff at the clinic show tremendous support by spreading the word to other CF families, and the boys’ doctor, dietician and social worker have attended Pipeline for a Cure events.
Rob has been surfing since he was 12, and both Krista and Rob love the beach. “It was a natural fit for our family,” Krista says. “I know that for our boys, within minutes of arriving at the beach, we see an immediate relief in their symptoms.”
CF causes chronic thick mucus that builds up in the sinuses and lungs. Doctors urge patients to keep up with cardio activities in order to build lung strength, but that is often easier said than done. “The rule of thumb with a CF patient is they must be about six feet apart in an open-air event, and that distance shortens significantly in a closed-air environment,” Krista says. CF patients harbor bacteria that is not harmful to us, but that can be so to one another.
Pipeline to a Cure is always looking for sponsors and auction items in order to raise the funds to purchase more surfboards for the families. Currently, they are in need of a trailer to haul the boards and can always use more surf instructors to volunteer their expertise. Long term, the organization plans to donate any additional funds back to the CF Foundation and hope to host an annual gala.