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Hundreds of paddleboarders ready for the 2021 Crossing for Cystic Fibrosis

It is an 18-hour fundraiser covering 80 nautical miles overnight
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Posted at 5:13 PM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 23:44:10-04

LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — If you had to define endurance, this is it.

"We're physically ready for the crossing, it's a mental game," said Ryan Burgess.

He's been training for one of the longest journeys of his life. It is an expedition he has already made twice.

"The ocean is my playground, it's my everything. When I'm on that board it's a different mindset," said Burgess.

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One hundred and forty paddleboarders and 50 boats launch in a week for the 2021 Crossing for Cystic Fibrosis. It is an 18-hour fundraiser covering 80 nautical miles overnight from Bimini to Lake Worth Beach. It's all for one 13-year-old who knows the pain of this disease more than anyone.

Piper Suit was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 4. Every day comes with breathing treatments and medicine. In fact, days before we shot this interview, she was released from the hospital overcoming a lung infection.

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"It blows my mind how many people know me and support me when I have no clue who they are," said Suit.

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The entire community will paddle in her name, "Pipers Angels." It is a nonprofit attached to the crossing to raise money and, more importantly, awareness for this lung disease that devastated her father and left him with only one option.

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"I realized the only way to makes sense of all this was to see it as a gift. I was going to have to work really hard to do that because that was going to have to be what got us through," said Suit.

Now, as the charity embarks on its 5th crossing, people from all over are stepping into the ocean to inspire every breath including one of our own meteorologists.

"I think being in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night is going to be surreal and that will be a moment that will take my breath away," said WPTV First Alert Meteorologist Kate Wentzel.

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Anticipation builds each day for that moment when darkness turns to light, when mental and physical exhaustion thrust into motivation, and when all the energy they can harness propels them into the shoreline.

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"It changes the lives of people like myself, it gives me a purpose in the community," said Burgess.

All set in motion by the reality that each breath is a gift and never take it for granted.

Thirty thousand people in the US have cystic fibrosis. Those with CF often visit the beach where saltwater has become a natural healing method.

This year's crossing will take place Sunday, June 27, at midnight, and depending on sea conditions and the strength of each paddler, it will take 13 to18 hours ending Sunday afternoon at Lake Worth Beach.

For more information, click here, and here.

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