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Mt. Pleasant kickball tourney to raise funds for woman in need of double-lung transplant

| Thursday, May 30, 2013, 8:04 p.m.
Heather Hunter
Heather Hunter (left) enjoys a laugh with her niece, Madolyn (center), and her sister, Jennifer.

At 29, Heather Hunter has a bucket list. At the top is running the Pittsburgh Marathon.

The Ruffsdale woman was only 3 months old when she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Today, less than one third of her lungs works at full capacity and she is on the organ-donor list for a double-lung transplant.

“I think that first breath would be amazing,” she said.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to form in the lungs, pancreas and other organs, according to the American Lung Association. The mucus blocks airways, causing lung damage and making it difficult to breathe.

Cara Palmiere knew nothing about cystic fibrosis when she met Hunter four years ago at The Headkeeper in Greensburg, where they both worked.

After learning about Hunter's lifelong struggles with the disease, Palmiere wanted to do something to help.

Palmiere and Headkeeper manager Mike Howell mulled over various events they could hold to raise money for Hunter.

They decided on “The Greatest Show on Turf: Hope for Heather Kickball Tournament,” which has taken on a life of its own.

Funds raised will assist Hunter with medical equipment and services, pulmonary rehabilitation, medications and other life-sustaining necessities.

The event will begin with registration at 10 a.m. June 30 at Pavilion 14 in Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township.

Twelve teams of 10 will compete and there will be food, drinks, a 50/50 auction and more. So far, 150 players, volunteers and sponsors are expected.

Since the event is being held at a county park, organizers are not permitted to charge for admission. Instead, each player was asked to raise $150 in donations.

“It's easy to ask for donations when it's something you feel passionate about,” Palmiere said. “If I can help her in any way reach that bucket list, then it will be worth it.”

Palmiere said she was surprised by some of the people who stepped forward to help because they don't even know Hunter.

Of those who do, many were surprised to hear how sick she is because she has never complained, not even for a second.

Hunter explained that living with cystic fibrosis is just a way of life.

She describes a childhood of breathing treatments several times a day, pills and frequent bouts of illness.

There have been more infections and more difficulty breathing as the disease progresses, Hunter said.

As for the bucket list, she said it is simply a list of thing she'd like to do that she can't do now — like skiing and snowboarding.

“She's one of those people you just want to help any way you can,” Howell said. “She's a good person.”

For Palmiere, the event is about raising awareness about cystic fibrosis and raising money to help her friend.

Hunter, who plans to attend the kickball tournament, said she is touched by all the support she's received.

“Seeing the generosity of people is amazing,” she said. “The community has come together and helped out and I think it's a really great idea and I'm excited for it.”

Michele Stewardson is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.