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Volunteer Advocate
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Jillian Dudar: Walking for Ava

My husband, Reid, and I have two amazing children; Jaxson, who is 8 years old and loves all things basketball and baseball, and Ava, who is 5 years old and is so creative. She’s always drawing, painting, singing and dancing. Ava is our wild child. She’s beyond hilarious and has enough spunk and sass for the both of us. She’s the strongest person we know, and this shines through her personality every day.

Ava was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) in utero. At the time, it was very overwhelming for Reid and I. We had no family history of the disease, nor did we have any prior knowledge of it. The diagnosis hit us really hard. We struggled with the thought of what life would look like for us as a family, and how it would change the family life that we already had with Jaxson.

Once Ava was born, she was immediately rushed to Sick Kids hospital and went on to spend 8 months of her life there before we were able to take her home and start our life as a family of four. We quickly found out how severely this disease can affect such a small baby. We spent many days just hoping that she would pull through. Even after that first 8 month admission to the hospital, she was then readmitted another 6 times over the next few years. We were thrown into this disease head first, and it was up to us to claw our way out.

Reid and I are originally from Winnipeg, so we don’t have any family here in Toronto. Our families do what they can from afar. They are huge supporters of our team during walk season. We have truly carved out an incredible family in our friends here in Toronto. We’ve been so lucky to meet so many incredible people, many of whom have walked with us every single year at the Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History.

My family participates in the walk for a number of reasons. We love to create awareness about CF, and share information with anyone who will listen. During the month of May (CF Awareness Month) we always try to share some of the lesser known effects of the disease via social media. We also participate to raise funds to find a cure for this disease so that other families do not have to go down the same path that our family has.

Being a team captain for the walk is so rewarding. There’s nothing better than being able to bring a group of people together for the purpose of making a difference.

[This year the Walk has gone virtual, but] if I had to give any fundraising tips for the walk, it would be to share, share, and share some more! The more of your story you share, the more people are likely to resonate with it and want to get involved. We like sharing Ava’s story. We often share pictures of her doing treatments.  We’ve even had her and Jaxson make a few videos together. It gives a face to the paper description of the disease.

Participating in the Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History is a great way to see that we’re not alone in this fight. When you see other families walking alongside you, it’s so reassuring to know that we’re all working towards the same goal — a world without CF.

For the past 15 years, the CF community has come together every year at the Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History, united in the pursuit of a cure. This year, due to the unprecedented global situation caused by COVID-19, the walk has been changed to a virtual format in an effort to keep our community safe.

This year, we invite you to #walkyourway4CF. For the Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History: Virtual Challenge, you can complete your walk your way, on your own time until the end of Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month (May 31st).

For more information on the Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History: Virtual Challenge, or to make a donation, please visit our website.

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