Sept/Oct 2009

Above & Beyond

Amy Paule with her daughters Maddie (5) and Gracie (2).
Amy Paule with her daughters
Maddie (5) and Gracie (2).

For millions of moms-to-be, online forums are a great place to swap stories and connect with other expectant mothers.

For Amy Paule, the moms she met online became steadfast friends and the foundation for a multi-state Great Strides team, Miles for Maddie and Gracie.

When Amy found out she was pregnant with her first child in 2003, she joined an online discussion board of first-time moms called “January Joys.” As their sons and daughters were born, the moms exchanged photos and stories from the frontlines of parenting.

“We shared everything our babies did — when our kids would spit up and if they were colicky,” Amy says. “What I didn’t expect to share was the news that my daughters had cystic fibrosis.”

January Joys moms team up for Maddie and Gracie at Great Strides.
January Joys moms team up for
Maddie & Gracie at Great Strides.

Coming Together for a Cause

Soon after Maddie’s diagnosis, Amy and her family began fundraising for Great Strides, and the January Joys immediately stepped forward to help find a cure. Their support was only fortified when Maddie’s sister, Gracie, was diagnosed three years later.

Several January Joys moms have started their own Miles for Maddie and Gracie teams across the states, including Tennessee, Colorado, Hawaii, California, Alabama, Texas and Ohio. Some families travel all the way to Memphis to walk with Amy and her family each May. Each team raises thousands of dollars for Maddie and Gracie every year.

In Austin, Texas, Raschel Harbison joined Team CF with full force, leading a “CF Awareness Week” in her office to kick start Great Strides fundraising. The Austin Miles for Maddie and Gracie has raised more than $15,000 for the Foundation in the last few years.

“Maddie and Gracie’s diagnosis hit close to home, and I realized it just as easily could have been my daughter,” says Harbison.

The January Joys discussion group has changed venues a few times and has since made a new home at Facebook. The group of about 25 women keeps in touch online and by phone and — depending on location — in person.

Most important, the Paules have grown a network of love and support for their girls, Maddie, now 5, and Gracie, 2. “Greg and I want to teach Maddie and Gracie everything we can about CF so they can be as healthy as possible, but we also want them to know they have a crowd of friends and family to look out for them,” Amy says.

“It’s the greatest feeling to have so many people behind our family — on Great Strides walk day and every day.”

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