Great Strides – Over 13 Million of Them!

Robert Plante

Robert Plante

Robert Plante has walked over 7,500 miles during the past 27 years, raising more than $300,000 for cystic fibrosis research. That means he has taken about 13,200,000. Each step was taken with great dedication and purpose, because of his desire to assure that there would someday be a cure for a disease that most of us are barely aware of.

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and progressively limiting the ability to breathe. There are about 30,000 people in the USA (70,000 people worldwide) today, with around 1,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

In the 1950s, children with CF rarely lived long enough to attend elementary school. Today, the median survival age is around 40. New England is very fortunate to have four cystic fibrosis clinics. DHMC is an accredited CF Clinic with a full team of specialists, including a dietician, social worker, pulmonary specialist and a physician. All newborns are now being tested for CF with a simple “sweat” test. People with CF have a higher sodium (salt) content than people without it.

Robert grew up in Lebanon and graduated LHS in 1966. He first became aware of this disease in 1983 when he learned that his dear friend, Doug Jones, was dealing with it. Doug passed away 24 years ago at age 43. Throughout his life, Robert has unselfishly donated many hours of volunteer work, therefore it was not unusual that 27 years ago Robert and his friend Cathy Ross, whose twin sons Christopher and Michael were affected by cystic fibrosis, first became volunteers with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

For his dedication, former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation have recognized Robert’s accomplishments and dedication. Robert and Cathy held their first CFF fund-raising event “Great Strides” in 1989 with about 20 people participating. Robert now works closely with a development director at the CFF who manages the walks and puts on these events.

This year’s Great Strides event is on May 21 at Storrs Pond in Hanover beginning with sign-up at 10 a.m. There will be a 5k walk around the pond, a 3-mile run, children’s activities, food, and more. There is no set entry fee – donations are the key! Raise more than $100 and receive a t-shirt. This year’s event honors the memory of Michael Ross, who, sadly, passed away last November at age 32.

So, beginning in the next few weeks, you might catch a glimpse of Robert walking around the Upper Valley inviting donations and encouraging people to participate. And, he’ll be adding steps to his 13,200,000 every day until May 21.

May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month and your opportunity to learn more about this life-threatening, genetic disease. Visit Robert’s website at where you can learn more about this local event, join his team, sign up to walk, form your own team, volunteer at the event, and much more. You may also call Robert at 448-5352.

To get the “big picture”regarding cystic fibrosis, visit, call Lindsay at 800-757-0203, or email

by Betsey Child