Special to TC• Media
Dig deep into your couch cushions, clean out your car caddy, empty your coin purse – the government no longer wants your pennies but those working to help find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis (CF) are eager to take them off your hands.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced in the 2012 budget that Canada’s one-cent coin will be phased and that the Royal Canadian Mint will soon stop distributing the penny to financial institutions.
Although people will always be able to use their one-cent coins, it’s expected that government’s move will eventually make the copper extinct.
Betty Sheppard, president of the Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter of Cystic Fibrosis Canada, came up with the idea of collecting pennies and named the project “Cents Make Sense for Cystic Fibrosis Research.”
Sheppard has been accepting pennies from family, co-workers and friends. She and other volunteers in St. John’s and surrounding area are willing to take and roll the coins. However, people living outside the St. John’s area may need to do the rolling themselves and forward the amount cashed in to Sheppard.
Tax receipts will be issued for donation of $20 or more.
Sheppard says she’s hoping that students who need volunteer hours for school courses will come onboard and help roll the pennies. It’s a great initiative to have on your resume, she says and volunteers in other parts of the province may bring students onboard as rollers.
“We’re hoping to collect frequently and in small amounts, roll them, get the money for them and then eventually put all the money together,” Sheppard says.
What is CF?
Cystic Fibrosis Canada describes CF as the most common fatal, non-curable genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults. It’s a multi-system disease, primarily affecting the lungs and digestive system. In the lungs, where the effects of the disease are most devastating, a build-up of thick mucus causes increasingly severe respiratory problems. It may be difficult to clear bacteria from the lungs, leading to cycles of infection and inflammation, which damage delicate lung tissue.
Mucus and protein also build up in the digestive tract making it difficult to digest and absorb nutrients from food. Large quantities of digestive enzymes (average of 20 pills a day) must be consumed with every meal and snack.
Thanks to continued research and improved treatment options, life expectancy for people with CF has increased remarkably over the years.
According to Cystic Fibrosis Canada, in the early 1960s, most children with the disease did not live long enough to attend kindergarten.
Today, half of all Canadians with CF are expected to live into their forties and nearly 60 percent of all individuals with the disease in Canada are adults.
In the early 1960s children with CF slept in mist tents as it was thought that the moist environment would help relieve congestion. Canadians were the first in the world to stop using mist tents after proving the tents encouraged bacterial growth. Treatments for congestion now include physiotherapy and medication.
The Dooley family (no relation to the writer) of Goose Bay has been raising money for CF since 2006.
Brian and Jocelyn have two daughters. Bailey is 13 years old. Madison is ten. Bailey was diagnosed with CF at age seven.
Over the years, the Dooleys have raised $15,000 through the CF Great Strides Walk, sold over 300 hockey sweep tickets and more importantly, Sheppard says, have raised awareness about CF in the community and in the schools.
“Jocelyn’s sister Michelle who lives in Grand Falls works on all of our projects, too, in conjunction with the family,” Sheppard says.
Bailey takes a combination of vitamins and drugs and does physiotherapy every day at home in order to stay well, her mother says.
During a recent telephone interview Bailey is keen to talk about her social life rather than her illness. She spent two weeks in August in Gagetown, New Brunswick with her cadet corps (Army Cadet Corps 2945) this summer.
It’s the first time she was away from her family for that long.
The medical team at Gagetown ensured Bailey took her medicine on a regular basis.
Bailey said she enjoyed every minute of camp.
“We went camping and we went swimming and we had a biathlon. We did a lot of outdoor things.”
A typical teenager, when she’s not busy with schoolwork, cadets or hanging out with her friends, Bailey likes to listen to music and spend time on Facebook.
She’s heard about the CF penny drive and will help her family collect coins for the cause, she says.
Glenda Butt of Hickman’s Harbour has been a long-time CF volunteer. She’ll also be taking part in the penny drive, she says.
Butt’s son Jason Butt was diagnosed with CF at age six months.
The diagnosis “cut through me like a knife,” Glenda says.
“When they told me Jake has CF and I took him home from the hospital, they told me he’d be lucky if he lived to 12 years old,” Glenda says.
Her son is now 36.
Glenda says while she worried about Jason during his childhood, she never held him back. He played outdoors with his siblings and friends, was always active and had his share of treats just like his siblings.
“From the time he was two he’d sit down and take his pills mixed in applesauce. He used to take up to 25 with each meal. Now he only takes four or five to a meal,” she says as an example of the strides made in treatment for CF.
Jason, who also lives in Hickman’s Harbour, says taking his medication and staying active helps keep his lungs clear.
I fishes, chops firewood, cuts grass and walks in the country to keep busy.”
However, he says there are many days he feels like staying in bed. The determined man knows that’s not going to help him.
“So, I boots myself out and dodges on.”
According to Cystic Fibrosis Canada, half-a-century ago, people with the disease were encouraged to follow a low-fat diet to avoid digestive problems. A high-calorie diet and more effective enzyme supplements have helped improve growth and development in people with CF.
Jason admits he doesn’t pay close attention to what he eats but the food doesn’t seem to be hurting him.
“I can eat the leg off the table. And let me take my pills regularly and I don’t have a hitch.”
Jason is followed regularly by a CF specialist. The physician is pleased with his test results, he says.
“In July the doctor looked at me and said, ‘Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.’”
Jason has some advice for parents of newly diagnosed children.
Let them be children, he says.
“Running and coughing and spitting is all good for you. It helps keep airways open. And you’ve got to do whatever you’ve got to do to try and stay alive and live a half-decent life.”
For more information on the penny project e-mail email@example.com
Donations can also be forwarded to Eastern Newfoundland Chapter of Cystic Fibrosis Canada, 81 Commonwealth Avenue, Mount Pearl, NL A1N 1W7