Cystic fibrosis is considered incurable, and is a daily struggle for all of those who have it. Constant research is being poured into finding better treatment, and potentially even a cure, but Rowan's Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is putting their own spin (literally) on finding a solution - dance.
Some new decorations
Many students at Rowan University were surprised to walk through their familiar buildings and find purple throughout in the forms of streamers and balloons. Soon after, they saw a dot on the wall. A few days later, even more dots. What was going on?
Well, the new decorations were acting as reminders to students of the "Dance Away Cystic Fibrosis" event. Melissa Livingstone, a public relations major, is the chair of the event, and wanted there to be constant sparks to awareness throughout the building. She was inspired by Colette Bleistine, a former student who struggled with cystic fibrosis. She thought holding the event and raising money would be a nice way memorialize her friend.
The dots in the hallway represented the money they had raised, and each time more was donated, a dot would be added.
Dance Away Cystic Fibrosis
The Anthony J. Fulginiti chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (AJF-PRSSA) is putting on the Dance Away Cystic Fibrosis event, explaining that Livingstone was crucial in all of their fundraising matters - and she was particularly passionate about this one.
Colette Bleistine had been a member of PRSAA at Rowan, so many members watched her struggle firsthand and were inspired to help others who were going through the same ordeal.
Colette had been diagnosed at a very young age, so she practically never knew anything except the battle against it. However, during her time as Vice President of Special Events in 2012, she made her way onto the list for a double lung transplant. Of course, for anyone receiving the news, it is bittersweet. Double lung transplants can be positively life changing, but there are often complications involved - and the wait is not short.
Unfortunately, Colette never received the double lung transplant, as she passed away in May 2012. It was a blow to all members of PRSSA, and they became vigilant in raising money for the cause in her memory.
As you can probably tell by "Dance Away Cystic Fibrosis," they get pretty creative with the events they hold. They've held a hot chocolate sale, a restaurant fundraiser at Chickie's and Pete's, and a raffle table within the Student Center at the university. Dance Away Cystic Fibrosis ended their lineup for events, and raised the most money.
It was held in the Eynon Ballroom, and offered food and dancing. The dance club at the university also came to offer some insight into their moves.
The Eynon Ballroom was transformed into a sight of purpose, which is the color that represents cystic fibrosis. More than 70,000 people across the world experience the disease, making awareness and fundraising all the more important to PRSSA.
A lot of work is put into the event, and Livingstone says that she began planning almost six months in advance, arranging the event space, invitations, caterers, dance instructors, and more.
Kelsey Martino, of Kelstar Kardio, offered a Zumba lesson to all of those in attendance, offering a fun environment even as a part of a serious event. Later, raffle ticket numbers were announced, and five winners were given their prizes.
There were about forty people in attendance, and each one left with a newfound dedication to doing good on campus after seeing how PRSSA was honoring their friend and former member.
Mavish Khan, a senior journalism major, explained just how much of a hit the event was, "this is my first time at this event, but I love the energy here. I can tell the people who organized it were very passionate about the cause. I love seeing students come together in honor of a Rowan student.
The goal of the group was to raise $500 for the cause, but by the end of the night, they had surpassed it, raising $534 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. When PRSSA announced that they had broken their donation goal, there was a roar of applause, adding to the sensation that everyone in the room was doing good, and being a part of something important.
One of the most notable guests at the event were Colette's parents, who come to the fundraiser every year. They were offered flowers and a card, and her mother spoke about her daughter to the audience, and offered information about the Colette W. Bleistine Paying It Forward Foundation, a foundation named after her daughter that sponsors scholarships for students engaged in community service (like Colette) or who have been victims of unfortunate events. Bleistine spoke about her daughter, "she was very inspirational. People today still tell me about how when they are going through something they think about Colette and all that she endured, because she never complained. In the midst of it, she still cared about people."
She offered more insight into the life of her daughter, "two of her favorite quotes were 'Life is too short to be anything but happy' and the other quote, which I think really suited her so well was, 'Your problems are never bigger than your purpose.'"
While PRSSA is dedicated to raising awareness, they also want to raise money for research and treatment. However, Livingstone explains that the underlying goal is a little more personal. She wants people to be reminded of how "caring and wonderful" Colette was during her life, and how some of the most lovely people in our lives can be taken from conditions like cystic fibrosis. She explained, "we really wanted to capture her spirit and honor her legacy with this campaign."
Many students who were friends with Colette also got up and spoke, shared personal stories, and offered how much they missed her. By the end of the night, even those who did not know Colette personally had some idea of her infectious and vibrant personality.
The event was the fourth annual, showing their dedication to honoring her even as time goes on. Colleen Scott is the president of PRSSA, also a senior public relations major, and she explains, "we hold this in honor of her every year to raise money and to remember that she was someone who was here. She was a student. She was a part of our organization and she dedicated a lot of time to our work."
If you are inspired by Colette Bleistine's story and the work of Rowan's Public Relations Student Society of America, you can feel free to donate either to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation or the Colette W. Bleistine Paying It Forward Foundation.
The Paying It Forward Foundation states that it was "created to honor the legacy that Colette left of giving unselfishly to the world in the midst of great challenges and suffering. She enjoyed giving to the homeless, to her family, friends, those she knew and those she never knew ... Hence, our journey of giving has begun. Her light continues to shine on!"