After speaking with Kate Becket -- mother of two young children, one with cystic fibrosis -- I felt the sudden urge to run around the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation office here in Bethesda, Maryland, and hide scavenger hunt clues under people's desks and next to the coffee machine.
The Becket family has put together an ingenious fundraising and awareness event for CF inspired by the hit TV show, “The Amazing Race.”
Named in honor of 4-year-old Anna Becket, who has CF, Anna's Amazing Race was held on Oct. 3 in York, Pennsylvania, and the participants were every bit as motivated as the contestants on the real show.
The format of the race was pretty simple: 12 teams of four people -- dressed in coordinating colors or costumes -- followed rhymed riddles from 10 different clue cards hidden around town that either contained a task or a puzzle. Teams were given a total of three hours to complete the race.
The fourth annual event uses different challenges each year, with this year's event featuring a twist and a bonus task -- the addition of an extra team member. “Usually the second that people get their first clue they start racing toward their cars, so this year we wanted to shake things up by making them turn around half way to the parking lot and have the first task set at the start location,” explained Kate. “Since my husband's favorite movie is 'Weekend at Bernie's' and it's almost Halloween, we decided that the bonus task would have teams making scarecrows who would then be their team's fifth member and accompany them on all challenges.”
In addition to tasks that helped bring out everyone's comedic side, Kate also made sure to incorporate tasks that helped participants better understand the realities of the disease. “We try to have at least one task that teaches people about CF,” said Kate. One of the physical tasks challenged two people from each team to run up a large hill and then try to fog up a mirror by huffing through a toilet paper roll. After the mirror was fogged, the third teammate needed to write Anna's name onto the mirror while the fourth teammate quickly snapped a picture.
This task, designed to show participants what it is like for Anna to breathe with a decreased lung capacity, was introduced by this clever riddle:
For this task we want to raise your awareness,
And sample some of Anna’s therapies for fairness.
You’ll need to find York’s biggest hill,
Start at the bottom and muster your will.
At the top you'll find a reservoir,
On Country Club Road with the college not too far.
Start running up and on your way you'll find
A task to complete with “Anna” in mind.
Another teachable moment featured a CF spelling bee, which was set up with folding chairs, a microphone and someone to read aloud each word and offer definitions -- the real deal. One at a time, each person had to attempt to spell the words from a given list, with all 10 words spelled correctly by each team. If I had been fortunate enough to compete in Anna's Amazing Race, I am fairly certain that during this task my team would have tried to vote me off the island.
Although, I feel like I could have brought some strong competition to the “spirit award,” which was given to the most creatively costumed team. The team that dressed up as the Power Rangers -- who were so dedicated to their personas that they showed up to the event blasting the theme music through their car stereo and routinely busted out ninja moves -- won this year's award. But I was told that the four girls that dressed up as characters from Taylor Swift's “Bad Blood” music video were a close second.
The event concluded with over $9,000 raised for the Becket family's Great Strides team, and all who participated came away with a better understanding of what is means to live with CF. The event was clearly a hit, and I only see it getting bigger and better each year.