Disruptors. They are the few and the fierce. In our series, Leading between the Lines, we have the opportunity, and the pleasure, of meeting with some of South Florida’s most dynamic female business leaders, ones who are disrupting their industry, approaching things in a new way, solving new problems, and effectively pushing the status quo into a new frontier. We want to learn about their journey, what it really takes, what they’re actually up against, and how it feels each step along the way.
In this special edition of Leading between the Lines, we had the privilege of speaking to a rising leader-- our youngest interviewee to date. She balances the everyday challenges of high school along with an ongoing battle against Cystic Fibrosis (CF). Meet Piper Suit, CF Warrior and namesake of Piper’s Angels Foundation.
Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at just 4 years old, Piper has been actively battling the chronic disease for most of her life-- but that hasn’t stopped her from living life to the fullest. Upon discovering the healing and restorative experience of being in and near the ocean, Piper and her family began changing the narrative.
Piper’s father, Travis Suit, founded Piper’s Angels Foundation and created the Crossing for Cystic Fibrosis, an 80-mile paddle challenge from the Bahamas to Florida. The massive annual initiative spotlights CF Warriors, engages the community, and fundraises toward medical advancements in the fight against Cystic Fibrosis. Piper’s Angels Foundation continues to grow into one of the most impactful grassroots organizations for Cystic Fibrosis.
This year, Piper has chosen to shatter expectations by taking on the ultimate challenge: completing the crossing herself.
Read our full interview to learn more about Piper’s journey of perseverance through CF, the reality (and myths) of navigating chronic illness, and what it really means to live boldly with every breath.
Romi: Piper, this is your first year paddling from Bimini to Lake Worth for your namesake foundation. What motivated you to participate in this year’s crossing? What led to the decision?
Piper: I was motivated to participate in the crossing this year just from my experience last year on the boat. It was just really inspiring and made me want to get out on the water. Me and my stepsister, Lucy, made the decision together to be on a team.
Romi: What has been your proudest achievement, and why?
Piper: I think my proudest achievement is that I'm able to participate in activities, like cheer, and be an athlete and do well in school.
Romi: It’s great that you’re able to enjoy those activities! Cystic Fibrosis doesn’t always make things easy, though. What have been some of your challenges along the way? What have you learned from them?
Piper: The biggest challenges with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) have been lots of hospitalizations and keeping up with medications and treatments. I have learned that time spent doing things you love is very precious.
Romi: Is there anyone in particular who influences and inspires you?
Piper: People in the crossing community influence and inspire me. They show me that anything is possible, even with adversity, and how to show up for people in a time of need. It is very special to have a foundation named after me, and I'm just so grateful that I have so many people there for me. The crossing has turned into a family to me.
Romi: It’s beautiful to have that support system, whether the road is easy or uncertain. Is there anything that scares you? What are your current challenges?
Piper: I would say not being able to be healthy enough to live a long life and achieve all my goals is what scares me. My biggest challenge is balancing all of my treatments, school, and social life.
Romi: It sounds like you share the same struggles that many of us go through, but with the added weight of a misunderstood condition. What is the biggest mistake or misconception that people have about Cystic Fibrosis?
Piper: The biggest mistake or misconception people have is that [people with Cystic Fibrosis] aren't capable of living a good quality life, and that I’m always super sick.
Romi: What do you wish more people knew about Cystic Fibrosis?
Piper: One of the main misconceptions about CF is that [those of us living with it] are really weak and sick all the time. I would like people to know that people affected by CF are very capable of being extremely strong and achieving many things. The crossing is a great example of that.
Romi: It really is. From your perspective, what does the future look like for the fight against CF?
Piper: The future of those living with CF looks very bright, and I hope the medications and treatments continue to improve and that one day there will be a cure.
Romi: What are your goals currently? What is next on the horizon for you?
Piper: My goals currently are to improve in cheerleading and keep my grades up!
Romi: Both great goals! Are there any words of wisdom that you live by and want to share with others who may be facing challenges?
Piper: "Bold in the face of fear" and "Inspire every breath." These phrases mean that even when things get really hard and are scary, you have to have courage and put yourself out there to try your best.
To support Piper in the fight against Cystic Fibrosis, make a donation and share her inspiring story!