Doing What You Love for the One You Love: One Grandma’s Story

Mary Duggan Lee Watson, a longtime coach, doesn't mind taking on adversity. When her granddaughter was diagnosed with CF, she decided to fight the disease doing what she loved: sports.

| 3 min read
Mary Duggan Lee Watson

I have never been one to allow adversity to get in my way. When I started my career coaching athletics 40 years ago, I made a point of championing causes that weren't a priority at the time, such as women's athletics programs. I turned a few heads and ruffled a few feathers back in 1972 when I was a high school coach, tossing the old women's tunic-style gym uniforms in favor of more practical and “un-ladylike” shorts and T-shirts. It didn't matter that it wasn't a popular opinion at the time, I only wanted what was best for my students.

When our granddaughter, Campbell Lee, was born with cystic fibrosis in 2010, I was once again up against adversity. I needed a place to channel my anger and my energy. I wanted to fight against CF like I fought against so much in my earlier athletic career. I wasn't creative and had no real marketing skills, but I wanted to spread awareness about CF and take some sort of action for Campbell Lee. I turned to the thing I loved best: sports.

My husband, Paul, and I started holding various athletic fundraising events for CF in the South Coast of Massachusetts, including running basketball clinics in area schools. Every clinic, I hang a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation banner with a picture of my granddaughter on it. I put a bucket on the basketball court, and the kids make donations -- some feel bad that they can't give more. I tell them not to worry, because one day they will all be NBA stars and can donate more then.

For six years, we have been running these basketball clinics, doing silent auctions and continually spreading awareness about CF. Along the way, we have raised thousands of dollars for the CF Foundation, helping with the mission to find a cure.


Next month, I will be inducted into my sixth Hall of Fame at the New Agenda Northeast, which honors women who have helped advance the role of women in sports in New England. It's a true honor and I'm humbled, but what I'm most proud of is my work for the CF Foundation. I plan to keep doing what I love for the one I love: using sports to spread the word about CF and the continued need for a cure for people like my granddaughter Campbell Lee.

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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Mary is the grandmother of Campbell Lee, a 6-year-old with CF. She is a basketball coach using her athletic talents to raise funds and awareness for CF. Mary lives next door to her granddaughter in W. Bridgewater, Mass., with her husband and dog, Fin.

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