SOMERS POINT — Myra Corcoran believes in miracles.
Seated at the Greate Bay Country Club just after the shotgun start of the Cystic Fibrosis Invitational Golf Tournament on Wednesday afternoon, the Ocean City resident said she and her husband, Gerald Corcoran, have every reason to.
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at an early age, their daughter was not expected to live to see grade school. Over the summer, Maura Corcoran-Wozniak celebrated her 40th birthday with a big party. She and her husband, Joe Wozniak, have healthy twins, William and Ellie.
“We are blessed with the gift of hope, and we do believe in miracles,” her mother said.
On a hot, sunny October day, the 30th and final golf tournament kicked off with a shotgun start and about 130 golfers participating, along with a great many volunteers. According to Corcoran, the event has raised more than $3.8 million for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She cited the volunteers and participants, but also the numerous sponsors of the event and those who have made donations and other contributions.
While some of the golfers and volunteers were new this year, many have attended more of the past 30 events than they missed. This year was number 25 for Bill McCollum, who was finishing his lunch with Ken Post, a member of his foursome, while waiting for the play to begin.
He said there is a friendly, family atmosphere at the event that’s kept him coming back.
For Corcoran, it’s time to let go. She said the tournament has been a tremendous amount of work.
“It’s time to move on, being that it’s the 30th year,” she said. “We are not stopping. We will never stop until we find a cure for CF. We are not stopping fundraising. We’ll just do it in a different avenue.”
Their second child, Andrew, was also diagnosed with CF, while their third, Kevin, was not. According to Myra Corcoran, she and Gerald needed to take action.
“We knew then that we had to do something to help to find a cure for this disease,” she said. They tried a number of events, including bike-a-thons, tea parties and other fundraisers, until a friend suggested a golf tournament when Maura turned 10. They decided to see how that went.
While she was speaking with a reporter, a man approached Myra Corcoran, eager to share his own story of his family’s brush with the disease. She embraced him, saying later that people often want to make that connection.
It can be difficult to talk about, she said, but it’s important to inform people about the disease.
“It’s a good thing to share your story. That’s what we’re about,” she said. The event, and even the 2,000 invitations sent out to potential participants, raises awareness of cystic fibrosis and what is being done to fight the disease.
CF is a genetic disease that can be passed down even if neither parent has any symptoms. It attacks the entire body, Corcoran said, but can be especially devastating to the lungs and pancreas and other organs. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, thick, sticky mucus clogs airways and traps bacteria, leaving patients more susceptible to infection and lung damage.
Andrew has had a double lung transplant, Maura has had two, their mother said. Maura is a strong advocate for CF research and organ donation, her mother said.
Andrew lives in Los Angeles, while Maura lives in North Carolina, Myra said. Kevin lives in Ocean City and has a new baby son, also named for him. He operates the Wet and Wild Wave Runner and Jet Ski rentals in Ocean City.
In the decades since their children’s diagnoses, major strides have been made in fighting the disease and in organ transplants. Screening systems that didn’t exist 40 years ago can now warn parents of potential risks. Once seen as a childhood disease, new and better treatments are helping more CF patients reach adulthood.
The life expectancy of someone diagnosed with CF has more than doubled in the years the tournament has taken place. But Corcoran said children still die of CF, a disease affecting about 30,000 adults and children in the United States.
The event began with a lunch and was set to close with an evening reception and awards ceremony.
For more information about cystic fibrosis, see cff.org.