More than 26 million Americans have asthma. This includes more than 400 students at San Leandro High School in California. When Jan Othen, a health and physical education teacher, learned how many students at her school have asthma and she heard about several asthma-related deaths, she decided she had to do something to help raise awareness.
Jan is also an advisor for the San Leandro High School’s Jefferson Awards Club, which does service events within the community. She and the club had multiple discussions about the seriousness of asthma and it had in impact on the club members. The discussions were prompted by news stories about asthma-related deaths, including Jennifer Pippin, major league baseball player Brandon Crawford’s sister-in-law, and two people in the Sonoma, California, area who died from probable smoke-induced asthma attacks.
The news stories and resulting discussions caused the club members to learn that two of their own had asthma. This made them want to raise awareness. Together, they decided to organize the inaugural Attack Asthma Run.
Personal Connection to Asthma
The Jefferson Awards Club at San Leandro High School includes Judy Fang, 18, Winnie Luu, 17, Katherine Mose, 16, Everett Quock, 18, Julia Truong, 18, and Cecilia Xie, 17.
Everett and Judy were both diagnosed with asthma as young kids.
“Ever since I was really little I would have coughing fits related to asthma,” remembers Everett. “I was probably 1 or 2 when I was first given inhalers.” His asthma is exercise-induced, but he doesn’t let it stop him from running and swimming.
Similarly, Judy recalled, “I’ve had it ever since I was a kid.” Her asthma is triggered when she gets sick. “Whenever I’m sick I need [my quick-relief inhaler]. Every single time.” Unfortunately, her asthma attacks have resulted in multiple trips to the hospital.
Everett and Judy both want more people to be aware of asthma and how serious it is. They are grateful that their fellow club members agreed more people need to be aware of asthma.
The inaugural Attack Asthma Run was held on Oct. 28, 2017, at the San Leandro Marina and brought together more than 200 people. Participants included high school cross-country runners, friends, family, teachers and school board members. The event both raised awareness for asthma and $2,000 for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
The club credits part of their success to recruiting local cross-country runners to participate. Everett is on the cross-country team, so to him it was a natural partnership. 160 of the 200 participants were high school cross-country runners.
“I have asthma and run cross-country, so it was important to me that we involve the cross-country team because other members have asthma and use their inhalers,” shared Everett. “I felt really accomplished collecting money from the cross-country runners. It was really good to see everyone come together and donate money to the cause.”
The run consisted of two courses totaling 10 miles. The cross-country runners first ran 8 miles. Then the parents and younger kids joined them for the last 2 miles.
Judy designed T-shirts for the event, featuring an asthma awareness ribbon. The shirts were orange with a grey and black design. They picked those colors for the San Francisco Giants, in memory of Brandon Crawford’s sister-in-law. As people continue to wear the shirts, the club hopes the T-shirts will continue to raise awareness for asthma.
“I think my favorite part about the run was seeing the sea of people in orange running around for miles at the Marina,” shared Katherine. It is a sight the club members will always remember.
Cecilia agreed and said, “When all the runners were finishing up and I was cheering them on I felt really accomplished and it made me want to pursue bigger things with the rest of the Jefferson team.”
Creating Giant Memories
Participants at the run got to meet and take pictures with the San Francisco Giants mascot, Lou Seal. They also got to bid in a silent auction that featured baseball memorabilia donated by the Giants. The most popular items included a baseball and bat autographed by Brandon Crawford.
"My boyfriend outbid someone for the bat, and I outbid Everett’s mom for the baseball,” shared Jan, while laughing. “I’ll let her win next year,” she said.
“My favorite moment was the ending when Lou Seal showed up and I got to take a picture with him and wear his hat and glasses,” shared Winnie.
Planning for the Future
Jan is proud of what the club was able to accomplish this year, as she should be. “They are all amazing young scholars in the top 10 percent of their class,” she shared. Five of the six club members are graduating this year and they are all going to different colleges. That isn’t going to stop them from having another run this year. The plan is for Attack Asthma to be an annual event. And Jan is glad that Katherine will be around to help for two more years.
Jan is already starting to plan the 2018 Attack Asthma Run. Once the cross-country meet schedule is finalized for the fall, she and the Jefferson Awards Club will set a date. She has plans to get more schools involved, raise even more awareness, and raise even more money for AAFA.
“Next year we are going to bring in all the athletic programs and other area schools,” shared Jan. “We have learned what we have to do next year, it is going to be so much bigger it is going to be crazy.”