RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Family and friends gathered Sunday to remember the life of a UNC graduate at a bocce ball fundraiser at Cardinal Gibbons High School.
In 2009, Cary native Joey O'Connell died from complications of cystic fibrosis, a rare genetic disorder that affects 30,000 people in the U.S. and 70,000 people worldwide.
Cystic fibrosis causes severe damage to the respiratory and digestive tracts, particularly the lungs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cystic fibrosis is most common in white people with Northern European heritage. One in every 20 Americans (about 12 million people) carries the gene for CF, but is unaffected.
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Since O'Connell's death, his family and friends have come together every year to raise money to help find a cure for the disease, with 100% of proceeds from the event going to support cystic fibrosis research and programming.
"We will do this until there is a cure for cystic fibrosis or at least medicines that are going to take care of these kids forever," said Elana O'Connell, Joey's mother.
Since its inception, the fundraiser has brought in more than $500,000 for cystic fibrosis medical research.