Lake Geneva

Suburban Boy, 12, Walking 26 Miles to Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Research

Brady O’Connell, 12, will walk around Lake Geneva Saturday to raise money to find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disorder he battles every day.

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With a break in travel baseball this weekend may mean relaxation for some of his teammates, 12-year-old Brady O’Connell from Western Springs has other plans.

“I’m going to walk 26 miles around Lake Geneva to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis research,” O’Connell said.

Diagnosed as a baby, Brady is one of 30,000 kids and adults in the U.S. with the chronic condition that affects the lungs and digestive system.

”I have to do treatments twice a day. I take pills before I eat and other pills to keep me healthy,” O’Connell said.

Determined to help their son, Kellene and Matt O’Connell have held an annual fundraiser for the past nine years called 'Shamrockin’ for a Cure.' The coronavirus cancelled the party this year, but the O’Connell’s wanted to keep the research going, especially this year. Brady is part of a clinical trial right now, and his family says the treatments are helping.

“To take the foot off the gas right now, for any amount of time, is a risky move. We’ve got so much momentum, where it’s like, let’s keep it going,” Matt O’Connell said.

Summers spent in Lake Geneva led Kellene, Brady’s mom, to come up with “Shamrockin’ went Hikin’ for a Cure,” a 26-mile walk around the lake.

“We asked Brady, ‘Do you think you can do it? And he said, 'yes, Dad and I can do it,'” Kellene said.

“It’s an exciting challenge. I’m looking forward to it,” Matt said.

The 6th grader at Highlands Middle School has been training.

“I participated in my school’s cross country team and we did a trip to the Smoky Mountains to help prepare, and I’ve been training around my community and neighborhood,” Brady said.

Brady and his dad will set off at 6 a.m. on Saturday. They plan to do the whole 26 miles in one day.

“I’m confident,” Brady said, when asked if they’ll finish the walk.

The O’Connell family set a fundraising goal of $100,000. Before taking even one step on the trail, they have nearly reached the goal and are beyond grateful for the support the fundraiser has gotten.

“All of Brady’s friends and family, everyone has been so supportive,” Kellene said.

“It makes me happy that people want to help me find a cure,” Brady said.

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