Tanner Buck, 11, is personable and polite, but plays hockey with a vengeance—he just won third place in a Wisconsin youth hockey shootout.
Tanner also has cystic fibrosis (CF) and has been treated at the University of Minnesota Cystic Fibrosis Center since he was 10 days old.
“We were scared and felt totally helpless,” remembers Ben, Tanner’s dad, “but at the U, they were so reassuring.”
Fifty years ago, most children with CF weren’t expected to live past age five. But today, CF patients treated at the University are living well beyond the national average.
So, the Bucks never looked back. They not only became experts in Tanner’s complicated care regimen, but began to fundraise for a CF cure. Eleven years ago they hosted their first “TannerFest” with a deejay, a keg, and mostly family members. Since then, the event has become a Luck, Wis., tradition, complete with corporate sponsors, a silent auction, and 200 attendees.
“In our small town, everyone knows Tanner, knows us, and is very generous,” Ben says. Year after year, the Bucks have raised funds for a cure. Last year, the family established the Tanner M. Buck Fund for Cystic Fibrosis at the University of Minnesota with nearly $17,000 raised during a Halloween-themed TannerFest.
When U doctors asked Tanner where he wanted his funds to go, his first idea—to take all the clinic’s kids to Valleyfair—was determined a bit hard to manage. Then Tanner suggested research and education. “The fund makes me feel happy, because other people with CF will get help,” he says.
When it comes to his therapy, Tanner also takes charge. He takes enzymes and twice a day for half an hour, he clears his lungs by wearing a nebulizer and a vibrating compression vest, invented by Warren Warwick, M.D., founder of the U’s CF clinic.
Carlye Tomczyk, nurse practitioner at the CF clinic, says Tanner has a good outlook and prognosis. “He’s the kiddo who takes the reins with his care,” she says. “That’s unique, especially at his age.”
Despite all the challenges, Tanner is ever optimistic: “I wouldn’t change anything about my life.”