Georgetown Current

Local Marine Runs 65 Miles for Cystic Fibrosis

October 15, 2014

By Kat Lucero
Current Staff Writer

Jesse Sjoberg had a bleak start last Saturday in his quest to run 65 miles.

The dark skies poured chilly rain when he left his Palisades home around 4 a.m., posing a new hurdle for someone accustomed to running the monumental distance in warmer and drier weather.

But the conditions didn’t thwart the 42-year-old Marine, who recently relocated from San Diego. Rain or shine, night or day, overseas or stateside, he had vowed to take on the challenge for his wife, Jacqui, 36, who was born with cystic fibrosis, a rare genetic disease that affects the respiratory and digestive systems.

“This is to show her and the boys to never give up. You keep going,” said Sjoberg, referring to his sons, Hunter, 5, and Aden, 7. “It’s been a rewarding experience.”

Over the past four years, Sjoberg has tackled this distance in an event he created that’s now called “65 Miles for 65 Roses.” The name dates back to the 1960s, when a young patient mispronounced “cystic fibrosis” as “65 roses,” which is now used as a benign-sounding moniker.

Since the event’s founding, he and his family have raised around $72,000, according to Denise Brownlee, executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s D.C. chapter. And they did so with Sjoberg as the sole participant.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Brownlee. “What Jesse proves is that grass-roots funding works.”

Established in 1955, the donor-supported foundation has raised and invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop treatment and find a cure. The organization estimates that 30,000 children and adults in the United States have the disease, with about a thousand new cases diagnosed each year.

When Jacqui was born, she wasn’t expected to live past school age. Thanks to recent medical breakthroughs, she’s thriving.

“I do what I can,” she said. “I still exercise. I’m just not as fast as everybody else. I cough a lot. I have to catch my breath a lot. But we’re doing OK. You’ve got to keep trying.”

For its fourth season — the first time in D.C. — Sjoberg’s run has raised more than $13,000, according to the foundation’s website tracking his donations.

The family moved here last July from San Diego, where the ultrarunner took on the challenge amid clear and sunny skies for two years, sometimes drawing local news coverage and inspiring other cystic fibrosis patients to see how far they could run alongside him.   

He originally got the idea for the event when he was based in the Persian Gulf. Since he missed a Great Strides three-mile walk organized by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, he challenged himself to run 65 miles. Accompanied at times by colleagues, he ran around a 1.25-mile loop 52 times inside a U.S. military base in Bahrain.

On Saturday, Sjoberg first ran to the National Mall and then headed to Hains Point to make several loops around the southern tip of East Potomac Park. For some lengths, he had running partners. His two brothers joined him for portions, while Jacqui, Aden and Hunter briefly ran with him in the morning.

Before 2 p.m. with still overcast skies, Sjoberg was accompanied by one brother on a bike and a former roommate at the U.S. military base in Bahrain. In good spirits, he was approaching 45 miles, according to his GPS watch.

“Trust me, it won’t be this good for the rest of the run,” he said.

He finished in 13 hours, 17 minutes and 27 seconds, according to the run’s Facebook page.

Sjoberg hasn’t always been a runner, starting sometime after he met Jacqui. He said he was aware of her condition before his brother introduced them. But they say “it was love at first sight.” The couple has been together for 16 years.

“He’s been amazing support with everything,” Jacqui said. “He’s been fantastic through hospitalizations and weeks of IV treatments. Now he’s doing these runs for me.

“It started off with [the idea] that when I got bad enough, he could at least do a lung transplant and donate part of his lungs to save me. That was his whole reason for running years and years ago. Now he likes the challenge of how far he can go,” she said.

This article appears in the Oct. 15 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.


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Lab Celebrates Upcoming New Building

October 8, 2014

By Brady Holt
Current Staff Writer

High school students at the Lab School of Washington face learning difficulties like dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that can make it challenging to follow a normal curriculum. But they also face the additional challenges of a cramped, aging school building, where former dormitories serve as classrooms and students regularly have to work in the hall.

The school took a step toward addressing its facilities needs yesterday afternoon, hosting a groundbreaking ceremony for a new high school wing on its 4759 Reservoir Road campus. The school band performed as students in hard hats turned over dirt next to a small building that will be torn down to make way for a three-story, 30,000-square-foot facility, slated to open in early 2016.

The new wing along Whitehaven Parkway — plus a new story added to an existing arts building on campus — will provide new amenities and much more space for high-schoolers, and it will also free up room for the middle-schoolers to spread out into the former high school space.

“This is a dream we’ve all had, and it’s a dream that’s about to come true,” Mimi Dawson, chair of Lab’s board of trustees, said at yesterday’s ceremony.

In an interview, head of school Katherine Schantz said the goal of the $16 million project isn’t to boost student capacity from the current enrollment of 127. Rather, the facility is meant to better serve the students’ unique academic needs, as well as the special traits that lead many to excel in the fields of art and design.

“We’re really trying to design a school space for kids who learn and think differently, and so we want a space that’s very innovative and responsive to the kind of creative thinkers that they are,” she said.

The 17 new classrooms were designed with flexibility in mind, to let teachers adapt them to different lessons. There will be two “makerspace” areas where students will be able to tinker as they flesh out ideas in different ways. There will be more science labs, a second music studio, an upgraded and expanded theater, and additional visual arts studio space.

Besides having more room within each classroom, Schantz said the expansion will provide students with a variety of places to work in keeping with their own learning styles — for instance, those seeking solitude will be able to get a respite from crowds of classmates.

At the ceremony, Schantz and several students also spoke of even more basic improvements that will come with the new high school facility. Heat and air conditioning will work reliably. Lockers will have room for musical instruments and athletics equipment. Classrooms will have modern communications technology. Students won’t be left working in the hallway.

“At lunch when we’re all at our lockers, we can barely move,” eighth-grader Anika Eigen-Zucchi said at the event. But once the high school moves to the new building, “junior high will be a well-oiled machine, running comfortably and smoothly.”

Schantz said the Lab School is committed to working with neighboring residents and schools to make sure the construction process also goes smoothly. The school is posting project-material and construction updates online, as well as information about regular community meetings that discuss construction issues. The material is available at tinyurl.com/lab-expansion-dc.

Extensive traffic and parking management policies are part of the January Board of Zoning Adjustment order that allows construction to move forward, including mandates for providing shuttle bus service, leasing parking from a nearby CVS, and continuously monitoring the traffic situation.

The new construction will replace two vacant single-family homes owned by the school that front Whitehaven. The school has begun disconnecting utilities to prepare for razing these structures, which Schantz said will likely take about two months. Full-scale construction will begin once that process is complete, and it will last until about January 2016.

The school is working to raise $10 million in private donations by the end of this year to help finance the project; so far it has collected more than $6 million toward that goal, board of trustees member Davis Camalier said at the ceremony, expressing confidence that Lab will reach it.

This article appears in the Oct. 8 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.


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Georgetown ANC Votes to Restrict Curbside Dumpsters

October 1, 2014

By Graham Vyse
Current Staff Writer

Georgetown’s advisory neighborhood commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to request that curbside dumpsters be banned — or at least severely restricted — on residential streets in their community.

Commissioner Tom Birch said he and his colleagues still need to take their proposal to D.C. officials, but they said the time had come to prevent dumpsters used during home renovations from taking up so much space in Georgetown.

“We’re all familiar with the use and the proliferation of dumpsters in our neighborhood,” he said. “They’re available for long periods of time. The permits are cheap. They’re easily renewable.” As a result, Birch said, they are taking up an increasing number of parking spaces and jutting out onto narrow residential streets, frustrating residents.

Moreover, most dumpsters may be unnecessary because contractors working on home renovation projects in the area usually have access to waste removal trucks, he said. One resident told Birch her family had renovated four different houses in Georgetown without ever using a dumpster.

As of now, it costs a contractor only $75 for a permit to keep a dumpster on a D.C. street for a month. Birch said the District should consider emulating Old Town Alexandria, where a contractor would have to pay $1,900 to keep a dumpster out for that amount of time.

Commissioner Dennis Quinn said he supported Birch, but he would have “a very keen eye on making sure that policy outcomes are limited to Georgetown.” Quinn expressed concern about advocating for higher permit fees in other neighborhoods without first consulting community leaders there.

But Birch pushed back, saying “some things will only happen if they’re applied citywide.”

“I would suggest that this problem may be a serious bother to the residents of other neighborhoods across the city,” he said.

Birch also said commissioners would need to be prepared to take on a wide array of dumpster-providing companies in the region that might fight against new regulations.

“I suspect there’s a dumpster lobby out there,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Concerns about dumpsters in Georgetown have arisen before, and the office of Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans began working with the community earlier this year on potential solutions.

In a statement to The Current this summer, Evans said: “Parking continues to be a large concern for residents and visitors in Georgetown. I understand that the ANC is working with residents to discuss different issues, including how to manage dumpsters. I look forward to working with the ANC and residents on any recommendations they make.”

This article appears in the Oct. 1 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.


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