WRITTEN BY JEFFREY WARD

The seventh annual Soles for Cole 5K comes to Senoia on May 11. More than a run, the festive celebration, which starts at dusk, features live music, food trucks, inflatables for the kids, merchandise sales, and fireworks to top it off.

“Everything might be negative in what you’re going through, but there’s always a positive side to what you’re doing.” –Cole Croteau, 1997-2014

Soles for Cole honors and celebrates the all-too-brief but significant life of its founder, Cole Croteau, who was born with cystic fibrosis. Friends from East Coweta High School started the 5K with Cole in 2013 to help his family cover expenses associated with his treatment. The following year, Cole succumbed to the disease at age 17.

Soles for Cole’s purpose is to support and foster awareness of cystic fibrosis, which affects approximately 33,000 children and young people in the U.S. Cole, along with his sister Alexandra and friend Kyle Cole, also created the Breathing Easy Foundation, a local nonprofit that helps Coweta families and children coping with the disease.

Cole made the most of his life gracing family, friends and acquaintances with his God-centered charisma and positive outlook, according to his mother, Anne Croteau-Lee, who says he lived out his life in concert with his favorite Bible verse, Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Croteau-Lee remembers her son as only a mother could.

“Oh, my sweet and sassy Cole,” she exclaims. “My kids have made me one joyful mama, but Cole made me the proudest when he truly accepted Jesus into his heart three years before he passed away. His whole life changed on this earth. His became more defined by his faith and love of Jesus and loving on other kids and families affected by cystic fibrosis more than being burdened with his illness. I miss my baby every minute of every day, but he is fully healed and breathing with perfect lungs now.”

Cystic fibrosis is an extremely rare and incurable genetic chromosomal disorder that ravages cell metabolism. Although advances have been made to prolong its victims’ lives beyond childhood, it remains a fatal disease that defies efforts to find a cure. The disease mainly affects the respiratory system by causing mucus buildups, which clog the lung cells and often cause difficult-to-treat infections. It can also damage the pancreas and the entire digestive system. Its degree of severity varies widely and presents a bewildering array of symptoms. Constant and expensive lifelong medical treatment is necessary.

Soles for Cole 2018
photo courtesy Davel Photography

Last year’s Sole for Cole 5K was held in Senoia with positive results and community support, and Cole’s mom hopes this year is even more successful.

“We need runners, lots of them,” she says. “We would love to reach the plateau of 500 participants in 2019, up from the 300 we had in 2018.”

The family-friendly Soles for Cole event takes place at Marimac Lakes Park in Senoia on May 11. Festivities begin at 3 p.m., the Cole’s Kids Dash starts at 6:15, the 1-mile run gets underway at 6:30, and the 5K starts at 7 p.m. The event winds down with a fireworks display after dark.

Soles for Cole’s color theme is appropriately purple, the traditional color of royalty. This year’s race organizers want to “paint Senoia purple” in honor of Cole’s memory and to acknowledge each individual in the community who suffers with cystic fibrosis. It is their hope that Soles for Cole will help turn CF into “Cure Found.”