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Title
West Hempstead Student Inspires Her Peers to Give Back to IPF Research at Winthrop
Date
March 23, 2017
Article

Mineola, NY – Perhaps one of the most important life lessons a child can ever learn is the importance of giving back. Kiera Harding, a 4th grade student at St. Thomas the Apostle School in West Hempstead, has learned that lesson early in life.  Kiera, the granddaughter of West Hempstead resident Mary Rockensies, a patient of Winthrop and the inspiration behind the creation of The Mother Mary Breathe Easy Foundation, recently had the idea to utilize one of the school's dedicated dress down days to encourage her peers to raise funds for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) research – the very core of the mission of the Foundation. IPF is a chronic disease characterized by a progressive decline in lung function with no known cure.

West Hempstead Student Inspires Her Peers to Give Back to IPF Research at Winthrop(L-R) Valerie Gigante, Principal at St. Thomas the Apostle School in West Hempstead; Diane Smith, Director of Major Gifts at Winthrop; Kiera Harding with her grandparents, Mary and Ray Rockensies and her mom, Maryann; Steve Salzman, MD, Chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Winthrop; Mara Bernstein, LRT, Administrative Director of Pulmonary Outpatient Services at Winthrop; and Richard Rivera, Vice President, Administration at Winthrop.

On Thursday, March 2, students gathered in the auditorium for a special presentation delivered by Steve Salzman, MD, Chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Winthrop, who engaged sixth, seventh and eighth graders at the school in a discussion about lung disease and healthy living, providing a fundamental basis for why research in this arena is so vital. Following the presentation, students participated in a healthy walking activity and the next day, children who donated $1 or more to the cause had the opportunity to dress down and wear something to school outside of their usual uniform.

West Hempstead Student Inspires Her Peers to Give Back to IPF Research at WinthropSteve Salzman, MD, Chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Winthrop, speaks with sixth, seventh and eighth graders at St. Thomas the Apostle School about lung disease and healthy behaviors.

"If children are going to give to a cause, I think it's important that they understand why they are giving," said Dr. Salzman. "I was pleased to have the opportunity to join with the Mother Mary Breathe Easy Foundation to provide education to the students about lung disease and why the research that Winthrop is conducting is so important for future treatment."

West Hempstead Student Inspires Her Peers to Give Back to IPF Research at WinthropStudents engaged in a healthy activity by walking together after hearing the presentation by Dr. Salzman.

This past September, The Foundation presented Winthrop with a check in the amount of $50,000, which has been directed towards IPF research that is examining exhaled breath condensate to look for fragments of micro DNA to see if they can find a pattern among IPF patients in order to better pinpoint which therapies are most suitable to treat them.

An avid walker who did not engage in smoking or other behaviors related to the development of IPF, Mrs. Rockensies and her family were shocked when they learned that the lingering dry cough from which she suffered was a symptom of the condition. Now, Mrs. Rockensies, who relies on the assistance of 24/7 oxygen therapy (which she refers to as "Rosie"), along with her family, is committed to raising awareness and funds for research for the disease.

Mrs. Rockensies, who was in attendance at Dr. Salzman’s presentation, along with her daughter, Maryann, Kiera’s mom, smiled as she looked on to faces of all of the children who were present that day, grateful for their attendance and participation.

"I don't want anyone to ever have to have a 'Rosie,'" she said."We are doing this to make sure future patients don’t need to."

The Mother Mary Breathe Easy Foundation is hosting its second annual fundraiser on July 14, 2017 at the Coral House in Baldwin, NY. Proceeds raised by the event will benefit IPF research at Winthrop. For more information about the event, visit The Mother Mary Breathe Easy Foundation’s Facebook page.  For more information about pulmonary care at Winthrop, visit www.winthrop.org or call 1-866-WINTHROP.