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Med students organize road race for asthma camp

Breeze Against Wheeze 5k enters 17th year, proceeds will benefit asthma patients in financial need

Staff Writer
Friday, April 20, 2018

On Saturday, members of the Providence community will lose their breath running up Hope Street so that young Rhode Islanders can catch theirs.

Between 100 and 150 runners are expected to take part in the 17th annual Breeze Against Wheeze five-kilometer run and three-kilometer walk, according to the four first-year students at the Alpert Medical School who are coordinating the event.

All proceeds from the race — which will start and finish on Hope Street next to Pembroke Field — will benefit the Community Asthma Program of Hasbro Children’s Hospital, helping to fund a free asthma summer camp for Rhode Island children “who have been diagnosed with moderate or severe asthma and who are often in financial need,” according to the website for the race.

First-year medical students have spearheaded preparations for the event every year since its inception in 2002. Kristina Hinman MD’21, Julia Bassell MD’21, Sarah Frantz MD’21 and Erica Veazey MD’21 are the current leaders of the Breeze Against Wheeze initiative.

“This year, we’ll raise a little over $6,000,” Bassell said. “We’ve already raised $4,500, and that’s before the actual entries for the race.”

“One of our huge sponsors this year was actually PVDonuts,” Hinman said. “We reach out to a lot of the restaurants and different exercise gyms … because asthma can affect your ability to enjoy those things, and they can promote runners coming to the actual race day.”

Hinman said all profits from the race will help the Community Asthma Program offer campers a high-quality primer on asthma management. “The camp provides an environment for them to learn about their asthma, learn about their triggers (and) how to prevent them and how to bond with other kids who have the same condition,” Hinman said. “And it’s all led by physicians and therapists and (emergency medical technicians).”

Though organizing the event has demanded a considerable amount of time and effort, leaders of the club look back on the process in a positive light.

“A large amount of the ability to put on the camp … is because of the fundraising that we do every year,” Bassell added. “So that’s why it’s been really rewarding.”

Bob Rothenberg — a former head coach of the University’s cross country and track and field teams — guided the medical students in their efforts, as he has each year since Breeze Against Wheeze’s second year of operation in 2003.

Before he was directly involved in supervising preparations for the event, Rothenberg lent the group equipment for the first race in 2002. “When they returned the equipment, I asked them how it went. I realized they had only timed first place — they didn’t realize they were supposed to time everyone,” Rothenberg said. “The more I heard, the more I realized it was somewhat of a fiasco, so I said, ‘Next year, you give me a call and I’ll help you.’”

Rothenberg subsequently helped the team revise the 5K race course in order to streamline logistics. “We tried to devise a course that would have relatively few turns, would be easy to manage … (and) wouldn’t infringe on the solitude of the neighborhood,” he said.

Online registration for the race closes today. Runners and walkers can register the day of the event on Saturday morning outside the Nelson Fitness Center.

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