Having big dreams for the future is a key part of what it means to be a young person, but when Adelle was given the opportunity to support a family friend who lives with Cystic Fibrosis, she discovered that sometimes the biggest impact comes from doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well.

Adelle is a bubbly teenager and like many others her age, was caught off guard by the transition from Year 9 to Year 10.

“It’s been tricky,” she recalls with a wry smile.

“I changed schools for a greater academic challenge, but I’m also trying to find a balance between school, family and social life.”

So, Adelle’s choice for the school holidays would be unthinkable for most – to forgo a restful break and instead spend three weeks working hard for a special cause.

Cystic Fibrosis is a chronic illness than can cause severe damage to the lungs, digestive system and other organs.

It can be extremely invasive in day-to-day life, requiring frequent care – witnessed first-hand by Adelle through the experiences of a close family friend.

When asked about the impact of Cystic Fibrosis on her friend, the mood in the room shifts.

“It’s so tough,” explains Adelle.

“She’s constantly visiting the hospital, or having other checkups.”

Cystic Fibrosis affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive juices which are usually normally thin and slippery, acting as a lubricant.

For people living with Cystic Fibrosis, a defective gene causes these lubricating agents to instead become sticky and thick - plugging up tubes, ducts, and passageways, especially in the lungs and pancreas.

“The Western Bulldogs Community Foundation was mentioned at a school assembly and by my mum – to be totally honest I only signed up because I love footy, but I’ve discovered they’re so much more than just that!” explains Adelle, who has recently graduated from the six-month Youth Leadership program.

The Youth Leadership Project offers practical and theory-based activities aimed at increasing leadership skills of young people aged 14-16 across four sites: Ballarat, Ararat, Melton and Melbourne’s Inner West.

“The program aims to help young people build skills in leadership, resilience, community engagement, project development and public speaking,” explained Maggie Toohey, the program’s coordinator.

“It’s our aim to be a vehicle that can inspire, educate and empower young people to become tomorrow’s leaders, today.”

The culmination of the program is the Community Impact Project, where participants pool all they have learnt to plan, prepare, and lead a project of their choosing - with the only caveat being a focus on helping the community.

Adelle, like many of her cohort, immediately began to dream big when the planning phase begun.

Being the avid sports fan that she is, this was the logical starting point.

“I went around collecting sports equipment, and then selling it or donating it, but I quickly realized I just don’t have the time for that,” she admits with a laugh.

“So instead, I started to think about what I can fit into all that I already do…I love baking, so in the end I decided to go with that,” Adelle said, displaying a wisdom well beyond her years.

A bake sale with the proceeds to be donated was Adelle’s cheerful solution.

Anticipating only limited interest, the menu, featuring Yo-Yo biscuits and a banquet of slice varieties, was announced via social media, but generated results that greatly surprised the teenager.

Over $1000 was raised overnight.

“We had to close orders within 24 hours - I felt so bad, but we had to turn people down, there were just so many of them,” explained Adelle.

School holidays had just become a three-week long episode of the Great Rupanyup Bake Off.

From there, Adelle and her mum leapt into action.

Adelle whipped up a storm in the kitchen, pulling together Yo-Yos and slices of any flavour imaginable – liquorice, mint chocolate, rocky road, Crunchie and Mars were just the beginning.

Mum was instrumental in processing the orders and making sure the treats reached their destinations, some as far as a few hours’ drive away.

Meanwhile, Adelle’s Dad, a fellow Yo-Yo aficionado, volunteered as quality control whilst taking on the duty of keeping the biggest obstacle in any teenager’s life away – Adelle’s hungry brothers who would sneak a treat at any opportunity!

The money raised was donated to The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation Cystic Fibrosis Research Trust, who utilize donations to fund research with the aim of building understanding of the life-threatening genetic disorder and therefore, be better placed to provide support for those who live with it.

Remarkably however, the money raised has become secondary for Adelle.

“I don’t think it’s that impactful, at least not compared to the conversations we created,” she said.

“It was definitely scary when I discovered that (Cystic Fibrosis is hereditary). If both parents have it, there’s a one in four chance of inheriting the gene.

“Spreading the word around this sort of thing is so important in understanding how it affects the lives of people who have it, and all the hurdles they have to go through as they live with it.”

Approximately one in 25 people carry the Cystic Fibrosis gene, but most are unaware as they are asymptomatic.

Cystic Fibrosis is usually identified early on in an infant’s life and although treatment and outcomes have improved a lot in recent years, it remains incurable.