Written by Cassie Godwin
“I may not be able to control it, but I can make it better and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Bret Vickrey can tell you the exact moment and exactly what he was doing when he got the phone call informing him that his then 13-month-old daughter, Dalaney, had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF). “I was pulling into the farm to feed sows and had to pull off to the side to process what I had just been told.”
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation® website states that cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breath over time. More than 30,000 children and adults in the United States have CF, and 70,000 worldwide. In people with CF, mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene cause the CFTR protein to become dysfunctional, ultimately causing the mucus in various organs to become thick. This then causes clogged airways, traps germs, and leads to infections. Types of CF symptoms and their severity vary form person to person resulting in unique treatment plans being crafted for each person diagnosed with CF.
As young and new parents, Bret, and his wife Carin, knew very little about the disease, and immediately started researching. “Twenty years ago the internet was still new. It’s weird to think about how we couldn’t just Google it and find out everything we needed to know,” Bret laughes. He distinctly remembers how learning about CF was not an easy process. “We did a lot of hard research to help us understand what we were dealing with,” Bret remembers. “We doctored at the Riley Hospital for Children and had the same doctor from when Dalaney was 13 months old until she turned 18. Which is incredible. Dalaney’s childhood doctor has a nephew that shows pigs, so we had that connection too.”
During their early days of researching and understanding cystic fibrosis, one fact quickly stuck out. cystic fibrosis does not receive any government assistance in terms of funding or research. Meaning that all the research that is necessary to progress medications, treatments and ultimately find a cure is 100% funded through donations. This piece of information is what sparked the initiative to become involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation®, specifically the Indiana Chapter.
Jess Lawson serves as the Executive Director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation® Indiana Chapter. The primary purpose of all the chapters across the country is to raise money for CF research and care. “We are the grassroots fundraising piece,” Jess states. “Cystic Fibrosis Foundation does not receive any government funding. Meaning every single medication that goes through the pipeline and to market is primarily funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation®.” And the only way that we can push those drugs and medications through the pipeline is from fundraising and from families like the Vickrey’s.”
When asked how the fundraising idea came to be, Bret quickly replies that the concept was the result of an all-night drive home from the NSR Fall Classic in Duncan, Oklahoma. “In the late 2000’s me and a few friends were driving home from Duncan and were trying to think of a way to use what we do, raising and showing pigs, as a way to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation®,” Bret explains. “I knew that I could call people and just simply ask for a donation, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to create something that everyone who contributed also gained something.”
At the time online pig sales through Showpig.com were taking off and the idea of an online benefit auction was formed. Today, online benefit auctions are common and an excellent way for groups to raise funds for their cause. At the time Bret and his friends came up with the idea, it was a very new concept and a different opportunity for everyone involved. Bret made a list of breeders he had relationships with and got to calling to ask if they would donate a showpig for the newly named Passion for Purple Online Pig Sale.
“I wanted relationships to be built,” Bret explains. I wanted foundations built and to bring people together. What we did was each producer put one pig in the sale, half the money went to the foundation, half the money went back to the producer, and then whoever bought the lot got the animal. And that was the goal. I wanted everybody to get something out of it.”
The inaugural Passion for Purple Online Pig Sale raised $19,000. After the sale was over, Bret vividly remembers breeders calling him asking to be a part of the cause for the following year. The second sale raised $33,000. After several years of hosting the Passion for Purple online fundraiser, the Vickrey family shifted their plans and established the In It to End It jackpot show. The first In It to End It show was held in 2013 at the Madison County Fairgrounds in London, Ohio. The show has remained in Ohio for the past eight years. Held on the weekend of New Year’s Eve, the goal of the show is simple – show pigs and have fun. The Vickrey family, Bret, Carin, Dalaney and son, Owen, along with their good friends, the Brubaker family, work hard to host a family-focused event that also raises funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation®. The jackpot show packs in three shows and one showmanship contest into a two-day time. It’s hosted at the perfect time for junior show families to get their pigs in the show ring before heading to the NJSA Southeast Regional or National Western Stock Show.
From a logistics standpoint, a drawing is hosted to raise the necessary funds to rent the facility. The next aspect of the event includes the tremendous number of sponsors who provide monetary or in-kind donations to be given as prizes and help cover expenses. Money raised from show entries is designated for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation®. To date, the biggest check from the In It to End It Show was in 2021 and totaled $45,000.
The Vickrey family is very involved in the foundation and has been for 20 years. They became involved soon after Dalaney was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. “We assist them in any way we can, but they have been doing this awhile and know what they are doing,” Jess laughes. “The Vickreys are on of the top fundraising families in Indiana. The funds they raise are incredible.”
Since the first online benefit auction to the 2022 In It to End It jackpot show, the Vickrey family has raised almost $350,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation®. The Vickrey family and their support system have no plans of slowing down. “I think it would be cool for it to someday be a multispecies show. We haven’t really talked about it, and I know it would be a ton of work,” Dalaney laughes. “But I showed multiple species when I was in 4-H and I think it would be cool for the show itself to just keep getting bigger and maybe be multispecies.”
The goal of the Vickrey family has always been to do whatever they can to someday have a cure for CF. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation® website reports that the median predicated survival is 50 for the first time, which means that half of individuals born between 2016-2020 are predicted to live beyond 50. Another statistic reports that the mean conditional predicated survival shows that those who live to 35 years old can expect to live even longer than 55 – they are expected to live to almost 60. Jess explains that this is an incredible achievement, and more work is being done. “We are working very hard,”Jess states. “We are in this until every single person living with CF has a daily CFTR modulator therapy, and ultimately a cure.”
When asked what she is most proud of, Dalaney is quick to say her family. “We are very, very close, Dalaney states. “Even though I’m the only one with CF, I have never felt alone because they are always there for me. I’m proud that we have made the best out of the situation we were given and work together for the same goal.”
Bret, Carin, Dalaney, and Owen are incredibly thankful for the many people who continue to support this journey. “These are the people that you can lean on and make it all happen,” Bret says. “I can never give enough hugs and handshakes to all the people who do so much for us. It’s very humbling and overwhelming that we have this great group, plus the NSR and NJSA organizations to support us. It’s because of this support that we can continue to this.”