Vanessa Calas wrote -
The Guardians of the Gulf Stream are Vanessa, Aldo, Thong, and Ben. An unlikely group coming together from Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Northern Ireland, the four friends are united by their desire to conquer the Gulf Stream, inspire others, and raise awareness and funds for CF.
About our team
Ben Mudge is a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and returning cystic fibrosis paddler for the Crossing For A Cure. He's doing the Crossing again because he wants to return to an experience that was one of the most incredible in his life. Last year, Ben did the Crossing with a group of people he'd never met and had a great time, so he's excited to do it again this year with a group of friends he really likes and respects.
"The biggest reason is to challenge myself and inspire others with cystic fibrosis. There are some people out there with cystic fibrosis that don't have the capabilities I have, however, you're always able to do that little bit more if you just push yourself, whatever that may be. You'd be amazed at what your body and your mind can achieve."
Thong La is a mechanical engineer of Tampa, Florida, who's also a fitness fanatic. Thong and Ben met last year at the Titan Games combine, where Ben told him what cystic fibrosis is, and that he has the disease. Thong was inspired seeing Ben, who doesn't have lung capacity up to par with the other athletes, outrun them on a treadmill.
Thong is doing the Crossing For A Cure to raise awareness among people who don't know what cystic fibrosis is, and to have the opportunity to meet and create bonds with incredible people, like Ben, who are out there looking to do good for others.
"I believe this is going to be a wild ride, and I'm glad to be part of the team. I get to bring my fiancee Shanny too, and look forward to being able to contribute to this great cause."
Aldo Rodriguez is a native of the Dominican Republic, currently living in West Palm Beach with Vanessa. He got involved with the Crossing For A Cure directly this year, after watching Vanessa volunteer the past two years. She introduced him to Ben, who really inspired Aldo. "Here is someone with cystic fibrosis, and he's a machine!" To Aldo, everybody involved in the event is incredible, and there's an incredible energy.
"When I hear all of these people paddling with cystic fibrosis, they're not letting anything slow them down, it's hard for me to stand by the sidelines."
Vanessa Calás is a West Palm Beach native and two-time veteran volunteer for the Crossing For A Cure. She does the paddle primarily for the amazing people: Travis and Piper, and countless others. It's how Vanessa met Ben last year! Her second reason is because she loves the Gulf Stream.
"Ever since I crossed the Gulf Stream two years ago, I've been in love with the color of the water, of the sky, of how peaceful it is out there. The Crossing is an opportunity for personal growth, but also a chance to be brought closer to that experience."
The Crossing For A Cure is a long-distance endurance paddle challenge and international championship that takes paddlers 80 miles across the Gulf Stream from Bimini in the Bahamas back to the Florida mainland in Lake Worth. The event was inspired because of the incredible health benefits of the Ocean for those living with cystic fibrosis. Travis Suit's daughter Piper was diagnosed with CF when she was four years old.
About cystic fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick, buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, extensive lung damage and eventually, respiratory failure. In the pancreas, the mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food and absorb vital nutrients.