In the Spotlight

Long-time CF Foundation volunteer Robert Plante and friends prepare for the “Robert Plante’s Fall Foliage Walk for CF."
Long-time CF Foundation volunteer Robert Plante and friends prepare for the “Robert Plante’s Fall Foliage Walk for CF."

Robert Plante Goes the Distance for Cystic Fibrosis

Robert Plante, of Lebanon, N.H. is a tough guy to say no to. And he’s got the worn out shoe leather to prove it.

For the past 18 years, Robert, a Special Olympics athlete, has dedicated an enormous amount of time and energy walking in support of the CF Foundation. He walks in memory of his friend Doug Jones who lost his battle to CF in 1992 at age 43. To date, Robert has raised more than $210,000 for CF research.

Every year, with the help of the Northern New England Chapter, he identifies local businesses and sends them a letter about cystic fibrosis and the need for a cure, and asks for a financial contribution. Then...he walks.

In total, Robert has walked more than 7,500 miles through the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont raising awareness and funds, doing his part to support research toward a cure. His longest single trip?  A 44-mile roundtrip hike from his home in Lebanon to Quechee, VT.  

Now age 60, Robert’s painful osteoarthritis keeps him from walking the distances he once covered. So others in the community walk for him. These days, the Northern New England Chapter puts a reply card in Robert’s letters, and businesses send the donations straight to the chapter.

“He calls us and keeps a log of who’s given so that every day he knows who’s donated,” says Lisa Babaian, executive director of the Northern New England Chapter. “He’s right on top of it.” As a result of his outsized dedication, “Robert Plante’s Fall Foliage Walk for CF” has become an annual event in Lebanon.

Robert is a Special Olympics athlete with more than 200 medals to his credit. He displays the same kind of strength and determination in his requests for contributions. Sometimes, he’ll go back to a potential donor several times until the check finally gets written. “I’m persistent,” Robert admits good humoredly.

Amazingly, each year Robert has topped his previous year’s total. “Oh, it makes me feel good every time I reach a goal,” he says. “I cry happy tears.”

Robert has been recognized for his dedication by President George Bush, Former President Bill Clinton, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He’s proud of these honors, but it’s clear that for Robert, the fight for a cure to CF is deeply personal. In addition to two of his cousins who have the disease, Robert has “adopted” many children he’s met over the years. “You know I love my CF kids,” he says.  “I’m dedicated to children and adults with CF.”

“My wish is to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. Scientists have come a long way since my friend passed away. They’re getting there with new research on therapies and genes. Each day, they’re getting closer to finding a cure.”

Posted 02/19/08

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