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Pair take disease in their stride
Western Forces Nathan Charles with Aaliyah Byrne and Brandan Chitty. Picture: Lee Griffith/The West Australian

One is a 182cm, 104kg rugby star, the other a Year 4 student from country WA who wants to be a policeman when he grows up.

But 23-year-old Western Force hooker Nathan Charles and York schoolboy Brandan Chitty have two things in common. Both are keen sportsmen and both live with cystic fibrosis.

The pair joined forces yesterday for the annual Great Strides Walkathon around Lake Monger where more than 500 people helped raise money for research into the condition, in the hope of finding a cure.

Cystic fibrosis is a life- threatening recessive genetic disease that mainly affects the lungs and digestive system. Patients must have intensive physiotherapy and take up to 40 tablets a day to help digest food.

Brandan, 9, raised almost $1000 ahead of yesterday's event, which was his third charity event this year.

His mother, Hayley, said Brandan was an excellent role model for his three-year-old sister Addison, who also has the disease. "I'm very proud, they're really close. He's been really good and taken everything in his stride," she said.

Charles, who is four weeks into pre-season training, is the only professional rugby player in the world with cystic fibrosis and became an ambassador for Cystic Fibrosis Australia two years ago.

He said he firmly believed exercise was the best medicine.

The pair were joined by 17-month-old Aaliyah Byrne, who was diagnosed at birth.