Student fights for cystic fibrosis cure alongside peers

Grant Prichard, sophomore in agribusiness and member of Alpha Gamma Rho, takes bids at the Sell-a-Fella fundraiser on Feb. 5, 2016. The auction raised over $5,500 to support cystic fibrosis research. (Sarah Moyer | The Collegian)

K-State is home to many philanthropic groups and organizations, many with a different mission or cause. Molly Bassette, sophomore in biology and member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority, has lived with cystic fibrosis her whole life and works to raise money for cystic fibrosis research.

“I was diagnosed when I was 2, and so the first couple years of my life were really, really hard on my mom because I was always sick and she had no idea why,” Bassette said. “CF medicine has made a lot of progress over the past 10-15 years. When I was first diagnosed, they just really didn’t know a lot about CF.”

The Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity has welcomed Bassette’s passion for her mission to help herself and others with cystic fibrosis by supporting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, according to Michael McKinney, freshman in animal sciences and industry and member of Alpha Gamma Rho.

McKinney said he helped coordinate “Sell-a-Fella,” the fraternity’s philanthropy event, which raised a total of $5,585 in support of cystic fibrosis research Friday evening at the chapter’s house.

During the Sell-a-Fella auction, K-State women bid for a dinner date with their favorite for-sale AGR member. The sale featured men from the freshman and sophomore pledge classes, and included the hometown, major and a unique pickup line for each. Upperclassmen fraternity members helped with the auction process and worked behind the scenes.

The men of the fraternity hold the event in memory of their brother, David Sewell, who died of cystic fibrosis in 2009, according to Sewell’s obituary by the Pratt Tribune. Bassette worked alongside members of AGR to ensure Sell-a-Fella’s success.

McKinney said Bassette has supported and helped with the event in the past, and she helped this time also.

“Molly just really wants to be a part of it because it’s going toward cystic fibrosis,” McKinney said. “We always appreciated her help. She helped out last year, so she wanted to help again.”

According to Bassette, many of her sorority sisters have also shown support by attending Sell-a-Fella.

“Everyone’s always been very, very supportive,” Bassette said.

According to Bassette, Sell-a-Fella is a unique philanthropy event that people attend not only to support a good cause, but to have fun while doing it.

“I think it’s a great thing because it’s so weird and different, and (the men) get really into it,” Bassette said. “I think people are really drawn to things out of the ordinary.”

McKinney said working with Bassette and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was a true learning experience.

“It’s really opened my mind and broadened my knowledge of cystic fibrosis,” McKinney said. “I had no idea what it was before, and now between talking with Molly and with Amy Nyberg, (development manager for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation), just everyone, about it, it’s something that’s tough, but at the same time, it feels really good to give to something that you know about.”

Students across campus have the opportunity to get involved in fighting for a cystic fibrosis cure later this spring during a Great Strides walk on May 7, Bassette said. Both Bassette and the men of AGR are volunteering this year.

Nyberg said she estimated that the Great Strides event raised about $25,000 last year, which is up substantially from when the event had raised about $10,000 in total in years prior.

Bassette said she was on the planning committee for last year’s walk.

“A lot of the girls in my pledge class came and walked last year, and that was really cool,” Bassette said.

Bassette said she plans to expand her involvement through selling ball caps, which she plans to market all over the country through the foundation.

“If I can help get other CF patients to have the kind of life that I’ve had, that would be awesome,” Bassette said.

Bassette said she is intrigued by listening to other cystic fibrosis patients’ stories.

“Everybody’s story is so, so different,” Bassette said. “Everybody’s experience is so different.”

Nyberg said there are about 1,000 different mutations of cystic fibrosis.

The best way Bassette said she could describe the character of cystic fibrosis was as a “very, very sneaky” disease.

“I’m just about as lucky as I can possibly be with CF,” Bassette said. “I’ve worked really hard, and I have to continuously work hard to stay healthy, but I’m a lot luckier than I could be.”

According to Nyberg, the foundation has care centers all over the country. The closest ones to Manhattan are Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, and University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Ninety cents of every dollar donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation goes toward cystic fibrosis research, Nyberg said.

Even though cystic fibrosis patients are not contagious to the general public, they are contagious among themselves, Bassette said.

“There will never be a such thing as a CF support group,” Bassette said.

According to Nyberg, however, the K-State community’s support for Bassette and the foundation is abundant.

“They’re wonderful,” Nyberg said. “The support we’ve received from K-State’s students, it’s wonderful.”

With the support K-State students have demonstrated so far, Bassette said it is clear that she is not alone in her mission, and she is driven to expand the crowd of royal purple-loving people fighting for a cure.