Imagine self-propelling a paddleboard from Daytona Beach to Walt Disney World, a voyage of about 80 miles.
That’s the distance a hearty group of paddlers will traverse from the Bahamas to Florida on June 15 in an annual event organized by business management grad Travis Suit ’06 to raise research funds for cystic fibrosis.
Suit, whose daughter Piper was diagnosed with the disease when she was 4, says that once he found out exposure to saltwater can help alleviate CF symptoms, he decided to dive headlong into creating the Crossing for a Cure event to raise awareness and money to fight the illness. Piper is now 11 and going into 6th grade.
“When you see families suffering and there are obvious solutions to ease their burdens, it makes it an easy choice to get involved in a meaningful way,” Suit says.
Cystic Fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that usually appears in early childhood, causes lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. Those with CF have mucus that accumulates in the lungs, have digestion problems due to a deficiency of pancreatic enzymes, and have an excessive loss of salt in their sweat. Scientific studies have shown that patients who inhale salt air have improved breathing capabilities. The air rehydrates the lungs’ linings, loosens built-up mucus and helps reduce infections.
Suit says he used the lessons he learned from his business management degree to start Crossing for a Cure in 2013 as the fundraiser for the Piper’s Angels Foundation. He and three other paddlers boated to the Bahamas, then launched their boards toward Florida. Fifteen hours later they finished their trip crossing the Gulf Stream.
Suit grew up in West Palm Beach before attending UCF and now lives in Jupiter. He was not a paddleboarder or surfer before Piper was diagnosed and he learned of the healing benefits of the ocean for people with CF.
The event has grown each year, with 100 paddlers making the trip last year and 225 registered to cross the Atlantic waves this year on a variety of crafts, from paddleboards to ocean canoes.
The event has grown each year, with 100 paddlers making the trip last year and 225 registered to cross the Atlantic waves this year on a variety of crafts, from paddleboards to ocean canoes. The paddlers, who raise money to be part of the campaign, will participate in several recreational and competitive levels. Jimmy Buffett recently signed on as an advisor to the board of Piper’s Angels, and the organization is near to reaching its fundraising goal this year of $500,000.
As founder and executive director of Piper’s Angels, Suit oversees the 501(c)(3) nonprofit as his full-time commitment and role. He credits many UCF alumni friends and family with helping develop the project, including his sister Nikki Stellges ’03, brother-in-law Gary Stellges ’01, and friends Sean Dunleavy ’06, Lauren Wertepny ’06 ’09MS and Robert Fazioli ’06.
“When you fear your struggles, they consume you,” Suit says. “But when you face your struggles, you overcome them. The Crossing for a Cure provides a great opportunity to show that no matter what obstacles we face in life, we can always choose to persevere.”