While many families are spending their weekends at the beach or outside enjoying the weather, one Duxbury family spent last weekend walking to find a cure for a very serious disease surrounded by friends and family.
Paula Regan and her son, Bennett, were joined by nearly 60 people last weekend in Hingham, where they walked as part of “Bennett’s Bunch,” in the walk to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. Bennett, who is 10 years old, suffers from cystic fibrosis (CF), which is a disease that causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive track and other areas of the body. It is one of the most common chronic lung diseases in children and young adults.
This year marks the 10th year Bennett’s Bunch has walked to find a cure for CF and 10-year-old Bennett found himself surrounded by many third and fourth grade Duxbury friends as they raised nearly $20,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. With several dozen supporters walking alongside them, Bennett’s Bunch brought in the most money of any team this year.
Bennett, who is the only known child with CF in Duxbury, had a challenging year health-wise, as he has made several visits to Boston Children’s Hospital, the most recent of which was about two weeks ago. Each day, he takes 13 medications, including pills and inhaled treatments using a nebulizer. He also had a machine that looks like a vest that he wears to break up the mucus in lungs on particularly bad days.
“He’s fairly good about it,” Paula said. “He has started to express some frustration with it, which is to be expected at 10 years old. He’s starting to figure out its something that is not going to go away.”
One of the best ways to stay on top of the disease is for Bennett to stay active by joining sports teams. Last year, he joined the youth football team and this year he joined the youth ice hockey team. In the past, he has also enjoyed play- ing baseball and soccer. While the outdoor sports are exciting for Bennett, they also prove to be a significant challenge, especially when the weather gets warmer.
“A lot of issues arise when the weather gets too hot and there’s a lot of equipment involved,” Paula said. “This year he is going to focus on golf and hockey.”
Despite his health issues, Bennett has been able to participate in team sports at the same level as his peers. Many of his teammates came to support him at the walk last week.
“He is a kid who, despite the challenges he faces, is able to play at a high level,” Paula said. “His teammates have rallied behind him and his coaches have supported him the whole way.”
Bennett was also joined by members of the Northeastern University men’s hockey team, which was paired up with Bennett and his brother, Jameson, through Team IMPACT, an organization that teams up children with life-threatening and chronic illness as with sports teams. Once the child is paired up with a team, they are lifelong honorary members of the team.
Because Bennett is the only child that Paula is aware of who has CF in Duxbury, she said spreading awareness is extremely important. If Bennett were to come within six feet of another person with CF, both would become very ill.
"I know there aren't a lot of kids locally who have cystic fibrosis, which is why it is important for others to be aware of the situation," Paula said. "If there were someone else in town who has it, it would be helpful to know."