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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Student starts organization to bring awareness for disease

Lindsay Widener was just 14 hours short of graduation when she died of cystic fibrosis in October 2005.
In fall 2006, her sister Liz began Breathe Hope, a student organization at Texas A&M to bring awareness of cystic fibrosis to campus, and raise money to help further research of the disease.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that mainly affects the mucus glands of the lungs, as well as other organs in the body such as the liver, pancreas and intestines. The mucus commonly clogs the lungs and leads to serious and often fatal infections. It is one of the most common life-shortening genetic diseases and many people carry the recessive gene. In the U.S., it has the highest death rate of any genetic disease.
Sophomore biomedical science major Chlo? Mander, public relations director of Breathe Hope, said many people with cystic fibrosis live until their 20s or 30s, often requiring a lung transplant to survive. With medical advancements in the last decade, the average life expectancy has increased to 37 and sometimes can extend into the 40s and 50s.
“So many Americans are completely unaware of this devastating disease,” Mander said. “We try and push for awareness on campus as well as focusing on raising money for a cure.”
Breathe Hope is an organization made up of 30 to 40 students. They have awareness days on campus to hand out water bottles, candy and sudoku puzzles with facts and information about cystic fibrosis on them by Rudder Fountain.
The group has fundraisers such as the 5K, “Great Strides,” in addition to volunteering for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Gulf chapter in Houston and Texas Children’s Hospital.
“Great Strides” is the biggest fundraising event in November. Zachary Sims, director of Breathe Hope and a junior accounting major, said they usually make between $10,000 to $15,000 to help find a cure for the disease.
Sims said that although he doesn’t have a personal connection to cystic fibrosis like some of the members, he was looking for a service organization where he could give back to the community and he found it in Breathe Hope.
“When I talked to the people in Breathe Hope they seemed genuine and made me feel like I could really make a difference instead of being lost in the crowd or just another number,” Sims said. “I met a lot of people with [cystic fibrosis] and it was great to see how happy they were to see us as an organization helping and giving back. I developed a real passion here.”
Sophomore psychology major Kimberly Lawson joined Breathe Hope because of her 9-year-old cousin. He has a severe case of cystic fibrosis and is confined to a wheelchair.
“It is not a very well known disease and once it hits you personally, that is when you really learn about it,” said Lawson, internal coordinator of Breathe Hope. “It is good to be around people who know what I am going through; it helps you cope with the disease. I feel like the big difference between our organization and others is that there is a lot of heart in Breathe Hope.”
Breathe Hope has fundraisers such as Trick-or-Treat for Change on Halloween, face painting that takes place before football games and an auction.
“Breathe Hope is a great way to make a difference,” Mander said. “It is not just all about work either, we have a lot of fun together too. The great thing about Breathe Hope is that you can be as active as you want and you can feel yourself making a difference.”
Get involved:To become involved with Breathe Hope visit them at, http://breathehope.tamu.edu or contact them at [email protected].

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