Starting last for a first-rate cause

Published On: Mar 09 2011 08:50:00 AM EST

Team Courtney

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Athletes from across the world will converge in downtown Jacksonville Saturday for the Gate River Run.

While thousands of those running the 15K hope to beat their best time, others are running for a good cause -- including a team that will will start the race dead last in effort to help a 10-year-old girl named Courtney, who is battling cystic fibrosis.

Judging by her big smile and fun personality, it would be hard to never guess Courtney Starr has battled CF since she was born. Every day of her life she must take 50 pills and go through two hours of treatment that vibrates her lungs to loosen mucus that could cause a bacterial infection.

To help raise money to help find a cure, Courtney's dad, Steve Starr, formed Team Courtney -- a group of runners who start in last place at every River Run. They ask sponsors to donate one penny for each person they pass. All the money goes toward cystic fibrosis research.

"Running, starting from the end ... it's actually a lot of fun," Starr said.

Over the past three years, Team Courtney has raised $25,000. This year's goal is $15,000 -- something for which the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is very grateful.

"Steve has really been involved the entire time and made a big dent," said Tracey Aiello, a member of Team Courtney.

Twice a year she spends about two weeks at Wolfson Children's Hospital for what doctors call a "tune-up" -- something she faces again at the end of month during her spring break.

Despite the illness and the rigorous treatment, Courtney loves to dance, swim and beat the odds.

"Last year she did her first kids triathlon," Starr said of his daughter. "(She) also ran the one mile fun run for the River Run Last year. She's going to continue to stay healthy."

Courtney will turn 11 next week.

Anyone who wants to sponsor Team Courtney or find more information on giving a donation, visit to CF's Great Strides page.

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