Katelyn Sims, Cystic Fibrosis Advocate

Katelyn Sims, 20, is a 2009 graduate of Bradford High School. She is a biology major at Santa Fe College and her career goal is to become a marine biologist.

During high school, Katelyn was the senior chapter parliamentarian for FFA, a member of the community service sorority Alpha Phi Beta, captain of the dance team, homecoming princess, junior advisor to the varsity cheerleading squad, and an honor student. In all, more than 250 trophies line her bedroom walls.

Katelyn’s accomplishments are even more impressive considering she has lived with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) since her diagnosis at age 4. CF is an inherited disease that hinders breathing, causing thick, sticky mucus to form in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. Katelyn endures hospitalizations that make it challenging to keep up with her schoolwork. She must undergo daily breathing treatments that take hours. And she’s had to cope with the loss of all her young friends with CF.

“They’re all gone, and I know I’m next,” she says.

But Katelyn is strong. She’s athletic as a strategy, because athletes cope better with CF. And she’s determined. She made up her mind to become the Bradford-Union County Strawberry Queen when still in middle school, and in 2009 she won the title on a platform advocating funding for research for CF. She spearheaded the first Great Strides fundraising walk in Bradford County and has helped raise more than $80,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She’s inspired people via radio, print, and in person, speaking before audiences as large as 2,000 people.

“It’s too late to help me, but that doesn’t matter,” Katelyn says. “They need to find a cure. I want to help the people with CF who come after me.”

Writes Claudia Werner, Executive Director of the Jacksonville Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: “Katelyn is a young woman who is driven, wants to give back, and clearly wants to make a difference for many who may never know her. Simply put, while many young people are a lot of talk and little action, Katelyn is the opposite. She produces, while quietly working behind the scenes.”  

In addition to her academics and volunteering, Katelyn waitresses 20 hours a week at Cowboys Steakouse in Starke. She is the daughter of David and Leisa Sims of Lawtey, and attended the birth of her sister Amber’s first child, a son. She is a very proud auntie.

And she loves having fun.

“I’m the kind of girl who can go from a beauty pageant to riding four wheelers and mud bogging, all in the same weekend,” she says.