Some Ohio State students might be able to breathe easier with help from a new student organization.
Breathe Hope aims to raise awareness and provide relief for those affected by cystic fibrosis through yoga, making it the first on-campus student organization dedicated to the disease.
“I saw a need for it,” Breathe Hope president Hannah Rinehardt said. “Before Breathe Hope, there was no cystic fibrosis awareness-raising organization on campus.”
Rinehardt, a third-year in chemistry, developed the idea for the organization after meeting children with cystic fibrosis through volunteer work at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She said her motivation was later fueled when she met three OSU students living with the disease.
“There can be misconceptions and misunderstandings if we’re uneducated on what they’re going through,” Rinehardt said.
Cystic fibrosis is a chronic and often fatal genetic disease of the mucous glands that primarily effects the digestive and respiratory systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those with the disease often have a lifespan of approximately 30 years, the site says.
The student organization plans to raise donations for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the quality of life of people with cystic fibrosis and fund research for a cure. Each year about 1,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with the disease, the site says.
The lungs of those with cystic fibrosis often become covered in a sticky, thick mucus, said Darlene Cronin, executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Central Ohio chapter.
“Not only are the lungs compromised as far as working properly, but they are open to infection,” she said.
Breathe Hope centers on the practice of yoga, which can help encourage proper lung function, Rinehardt said. The yoga’s focus on breathing can directly confront the way cystic fibrosis compromises the body’s lungs, she said.
“Yoga has this focus on breath and through your focus on breath, you become more mindful,” Rinehardt said. “There is this strong link between mindfulness and compassion toward others.”
Breathe Hope’s campus yoga instructor, Hailey Schwertner, agreed that breathing is important for the mind.
“Just taking a breath is important to reflect on how your actions affect others,” said Schwertner, a second-year in health promotion, nutrition and exercise science. “I think that my gift is yoga and I enjoy teaching it, so if I can bring mindfulness to others, then I’m doing my job.”
Breathe Hope plans to increase membership, cystic fibrosis awareness and donations through on- and off-campus events such as a yoga marathon and face-to-face interactions with students who have cystic fibrosis. The organization also wants to be more involved with the larger foundation, Schwertner said.
Collaborating with an OSU organization is important to bring awareness to a disease that is often overlooked, Cronin said.
Rinehardt said OSU has the potential to raise awareness because of its large community.
“Ohio State has this huge emphasis on diversity inclusion,” Rinehardt said. “A lot of times it’s hard, but it’s really worth the effort to learn about other people.”
Since the Student Involvement Fair Aug. 24, Breathe Hope has grown from five to almost 50 members.