Several times a day, Lainey Smithson, 2, has a "shake, shake," a term her parents use for a breathing treatment to battle cystic fibrosis.
The chest percussion therapy helps her cough up the congestion in her lungs. After every meal she takes enzyme medication to help her digest food.
While she doesn't have any physical limitations due to the disease, these parts of her daily routine are keeping her healthy.
"Initially we were pretty devastated. When I was growing up and seeing commercials from the 70s and 80s, these kids were said to live to be 5 or 6 years old," said father Sid Smithson, a nurse at Chestatee High School. "That's not the case anymore. There have been so many strides in quality of life, it's incredible."
Today, the average life span for a person with cystic fibrosis is 37, he said.
Inspired by Lainey's story, the DECA club at Smithson's high school decided to raise money for The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. With more than 100 members, the club is hosting a tailgate party before the Oct. 1 football game at North Hall High School.
"The students watched a YouTube video the family made, and they were moved. They wanted to band together with the student body for this organization," DECA club adviser and marketing teacher Meghan Hatcher said.
Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick mucus that can lead to life-threatening lung infections, according to The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Smithson said there have been many advances in treatment and medication, including experiments in gene therapy that target the cause of cystic fibrosis, rather than just treating the symptoms. Money raised for the foundation will go toward this research, he said.
"Hopefully it will get to the point where they take a couple of pills a day and it will cure cystic fibrosis," Smithson said.
The Chestatee High School DECA club sponsors various charities and organizations each year. Last week, the club also donated money to the Great Strides Walk in Athens, a cystic fibrosis fundraiser.
"When you see kids take charge and want to raise money for a worthy cause, it's moving in a sense," Hatcher said.
The tailgate party will begin before the game Oct. 1 and is called "Come support CFF with your BFF." The students are asking $3 for each meal, which includes hamburgers and hotdogs.