Just Breathe: Remembering Jonny Bajdek at Saturday walk

Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited lung disease that has no cure. Patients may survive with the help of a lung transplant, but sadly many Cystic Fibrosis patients die of the disease.

A walk Saturday morning at Howard Park in South Bend will help honor those who have died, as well as support those who are striving to find a cure.

Tricia Sloma caught up with some supporters who are remembering Jonny Bajdek, their close friend who passed away earlier this year.

"This is a JB kind of day. it's the kind of day that we would've been fishing. We would've been golfing. It's tough knowing that it's not going to happen again," said Steve Baumgartner, a friend of Badjek's.

When Jonny died in February, friends and family felt a tremendous loss. Jonny lived life to the fullest, as a student, an athlete, and coach at St. Joseph High School.

Friends rarely thought of him as someone who was sick.

"You knew he had it, but the way he lived his life, you never really thought about it," said Baumgartner.

"He was just an amazing person that touched more lives than any of us. He did it in 27 years. Most of us won't do it in a full lifetime," said Ali Voreis, another friend of Badjek's.

The Cystic Fibrosis Walk was a cause that Jonny embraced, a cause his friends are now supporting.

The team is called "Just Breathe" and the letters J-B are also Jonny's initials. The team is quickly raising funds and sponsors. St. Clare Apparel donated the shirts.

Ali Voreis says Jonny would be thrilled. "It was never a self-interest that he did these things. It was absolutely for the good of other people," she said.

People like little Ethan Clem.

"Ethan is a very active-as you can see-three year old."

Ethan was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis during a newborn screening. The news hit the family hard.

"Am I going to outlive my son? Will he be able to play sports? You have all these questions in your mind and we just didn't know what life is going to be like for him," said Laura Clem, Ethan's mother.

Ethan's mom, Laura, found helpful information through the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She is now the local organizer of the annual CF walk.

"We want a cure so badly, and we are so close. We are getting closer and closer every single day," she said.

While Jonny's friends will gather in his memory, "It's very hard. We wish that he could be there," said Voreis.

"Being a part of this walk brings Jonny back for me. Brings him with me," said Baumgartner. "Kids like Ethan are going to have that chance at having that full life."

There are more than 600 Cystic Fibrosis walks are going on all across the nation this weekend.

Saturday's walk in South Bend is at Howard Park and begins at 9 a.m.

For links to register, or to donate to the Just Breathe team, click on the Big Red Bar.


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