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Meet our outstanding photographer and one terrific young man, Luke Pepper.

POSTED August 10, 2019
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

I have known Luke Pepper and his family for some time now and could not be happier to have him with us at Litchfield County Sports.

He’s always been a young man who attacks any obstacle with a determination and desire that comes from within.

To have to go through what he has dealt with in battling Cystic Fibrosis his entire life with a smile and an “I got this” kind of approach is impressive to say the least.

Here is his story.

Remind me of your school history. Grammar school, middle and high school. Graduation year as well. Secondary education? Years, majors, degrees when done.

 I attended Torringford Elementary, Torrington Middle, and Oliver Wolcott Technical High School. I graduated from OWTHS in 2013 where I then moved on to Endicott College to study Elementary Education. Graduated from Endicott College in December 2016 and continued with my Masters in Special Education from Endicott, completed it in 2017. I now teach at the Torrington Middle School.

When were you diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis? Which strand? Is there a cure on the horizon for your strand? 

I was diagnosed at 1 month old via a sweat test. From there, genetic testing showed that I have (1) delta-f508 gene and (1) unknown gene. Along with this, I was also diagnosed with CF related liver disease, and CF related diabetes. Currently, at this time there is no cure, but pharmaceutical company Vertex, based out of Boston, is doing incredible work in the field. Most recently, their triple combo, a therapy based on (3) different medications, is showing promising results at treating the underlying cause of the disease. This is a first of its kind and should hopefully be available to patients in the very near future. This will be available for my gene type as well.

Remind me of your routine with CF growing up.

My routine growing up consisted of doctors’ visits, breathing treatments, and lots of medication. Every 3 months I would head to clinic at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. Once there, I would be seen by a team of doctors who monitored my care very closely. They would conduct pulmonary function tests, blood work, ultrasounds, x-rays, endoscopies, and a whole host of other tests. They would carefully track my weight, lung function, and other processes, looking for trends. If anything was off, I would be admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotic therapy. Thankfully, I have been extremely blessed that this only happened a few times. My lung function has maintained over the years and I pray that it continues to trend this way.

When did you start playing sports and what did you start with?

My earliest memories playing a sport was fall soccer. I grew up playing in the Torrington in-house and travel leagues. Needless to say, soccer was not my calling. My brother constantly reminds me of how he remembers me eat donuts on the sidelines. It wasn’t until high school when I started playing volleyball that I truly began to love athletics. I was a setter and during my senior year we overcame a perception that we were not going to be successful but ended up making it to the State Final Four. To this day, some of greatest memories growing up was being on the court with that team.

How big of a challenge was playing sports and how did you prepare?

Playing sports was no more of a challenge than it was for my teammates. I never let CF bring me down and I always saw it as a way to push myself. There were times when I had to work harder due to being sick or overcoming some health issue, but making excuses was never a part of my nature. You take a challenge and you push through it. God only gives you one life and you have to make the most of it, doing things in His name. I always saw overcoming CF as a motivator because of this.

Talk about your morning routine with CF through the years.

Having CF, my morning always starts with breathing treatments. I typically wake up at 6 a.m. every morning. I complete an albuterol breathing treatment followed by an antibiotic breathing treatment. I then check my blood sugar and take my morning pills. There is typically between 10-15 depending on what is prescribed at that time. I then head off to the middle school, to the Church office in Avon where I am the visual storyteller, or to my clients. It varies by the day. No matter what I have going on, I always try to hit the gym for an hour or two, as this I consider a major part of my CF therapy. I then come home, do a few more breathing treatments, take a few more oral medications, and insulin.

Playing at a high level as you did in volleyball is truly amazing. How did you handle the high level and CF?

During volleyball season in high school, I was always put my health first. That was key to maintain at that level. As a team, we were always in the gym and willing to go in early or stay late, meaning I had to get up that much earlier to complete my treatment regimen. I also had to change how to dive for balls, as I couldn’t risk landing on my liver or spleen. My diabetes was also really important to control as to not have lows. This was a bit of a challenge to overcome.

When did you know you wanted to teach? 

I first knew I wanted to teach after working summer camps at Camp Moe. This was a great way to get exposure to working with children and how great it could be. From there, I tried to be in schools as much as possible, volunteering, substituting, and completing my student teachings. Endicott provided so many opportunities for growth through their internship programs that from my freshman year on, I was in the classroom. This really helped solidify my career path.

When did you get into photography? 

Photography grew out of a hobby. I always enjoyed taking photos and over the past few years my work started to get recognized. I would go out and shoot with friends, taking trips with the only purpose being to shoot. I have had two shows and a permanent installation, and my video work has also taken off as well.

What do you love about it?

I love the people that photography allows me to meet. Whether I am working with clients or just out shooting. It is always an experience that starts a discussion.

Future plans with it? 

At this time, I plan on continuing to shoot photo and video for near the future. It has provided so many open doors and is something that I still really enjoy doing. We will have to see where it continues to take me!

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