TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Locals are rallying together to raise awareness for Cystic fibrosis with its Toledo Great Strides Walk and Hike.

The event − slated for Sunday, May 15 will take place at the Fifth Third Field− will aid in finding a cure for locals like 13-year-old Johnny Merchant.

Johnny Merchant is a seventh-grader at St. Joe’s Catholic School in Maumee. He’s like a lot of kids his age. He enjoys playing sports and video games and hanging out with friends. His parents, Therese and Tom, say he’s an all-around good kid.

“He’s kind-hearted, helpful, and great to be around,” his mother Therese Merchant said.

Johnny was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth.

“My lungs get mucus in them, and I have to do breathing treatments twice a day to get the mucus out,” Johny said.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes problems with breathing and digestion. It affects about 35,000 people in the United States.

Johnny also has to go through pulmonary massages each day and take multiple medications. His mother said he’s also hospitalized several times a year for treatment.

“They have phenomenal wonder drugs now that Johnny has used, and it’s helped him and others immensely. It’s helping increase the life expectancy by decades. In fact, doctors are predicting a cure within the next 10-20 years,” she said.

The Merchants in large part credits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for the medical advancements,

As for Great Strides, the Merchant family said the event is a great contribution towards finding a cure.

“The walk is pretty cool because I get to see my friends. They walk with me and support me, and everyone is there to support me,” Johnny said.

Therese said the money raised goes right to research.

“It’s not going to overhead or hats and t-shirts. It’s going to help find the cure, and I believe Johnny will see that in his lifetime.”

The event is free and registration is at 1 p.m. The walk begins at 2 p.m.

The Merchant family team is called Johnny’s Joggers. If you’d like to learn more, click here.

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