Hinton Family Tackles Asthma in Philadelphia

April 29, 2009

Hinton Family Tackles Asthma in Philadelphia

When Rams linebacker Chris Draft  accepted his  J.B. Award for Community Service in Washington, D.C. just a few weeks ago, he had a couple of special guests by his side, Kevin Hinton and his mother Kelly from Philadelphia.

Like Draft, Kevin suffers from asthma, and it was the Hintons’ passion for helping others who suffer from the disease that connected them with Draft through the Chris Draft Family Foundation’s Asthma Team®. During each Rams away game, Draft selects a family affected by asthma to be his guests. When the Asthma Team® coach contacted the American Lung Association of Philadelphia for the Rams-Eagles season opener in 2008, they knew exactly which family deserved the opportunity.

“Kelly has been a force in really working with Kevin and advocating for asthma awareness,” Draft said. “Not a month goes by without them really representing the Philadelphia area and leading that fight against asthma.”

Kevin, now 18, is a senior at Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, Penn. He was diagnosed with asthma at birth and has been fighting the disease his entire life, but it hasn’t kept him from being active. He’s an avid bowler, participating on the Upper Darby bowling team, and played softball and basketball when he was younger.
His mother, Kelly, has always been in his corner for that fight. Taking trips to the hospital with her young son for treatment, Kelly became familiar with Kevin’s treatment procedures. At a point when he was very sick, Kelly came across a machine called the Vest, an airway clearance system which at the time was only used for cystic fibrosis patients.

She knew based on how the machine worked that it could help her son with his asthma, even though it wasn’t meant for that purpose. At first, the doctors turned her down.
“They said ‘oh no, it’s not FDA approved,’” Kelly said. “But I told them ‘my son needs that machine, because it’s going to benefit him.’ At that particular time, he was so sick, they ended up coming back to me and saying ‘let’s use it on a trial basis.’”

Kevin became the first child that did not suffer from cystic fibrosis to use the Vest. The treatment worked so well that Kelly was able to convince her insurance company to not only assist with the medical treatments, but to pay for the entire cost of the machine.

“It gave me the opportunity to go and tell other parents about this same machine and how it could benefit them,” Kelly said. “Since then, a couple of my friends and co-workers have been able to get the machine as asthma patients.”

Since that time, Kevin and Kelly have been advocating for asthma awareness around the Philadelphia area. Kevin has made it a point to give back to the people that helped him when he needed them. Both Kevin and Kelly have served as the chairpersons for the Philadelphia Asthma Walk, and Kevin returned to the Asthma Camp that he attended as a kid to act as a counselor for other children.

Kevin has also won several awards for his work in the community, including a citizenship award from Upper Darby High School and the Best Role Model award at the Steve Harvey Disney Dreamers Academy. Kevin was also influential in getting Philadelphia’s no smoking law for public places passed.

Based on what he’s been able to accomplish, it’s fitting that Kevin will head to Columbia Union College in Maryland this fall to study political science.

Through this community support for asthma awareness, Kevin and Kelly Hinton developed a lasting relationship with Draft and the Asthma Team®, largely because of their passion for helping others in their community suffering from the disease.

“It really is fun to have gotten to know Chris,” Kevin said. “Even though he’s an NFL player and he has asthma, he finds the time to connect with other people who have asthma just like him. It shows how he doesn’t allow his asthma to affect his ability to continue with his career and his personal life.”

Although both Kevin and Kelly are die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fans, they still make sure to check on the Rams and their friend Chris Draft every Sunday. They even take the time to call when he’s had a particularly good game, or even offer consolation following a loss.

“Kevin might be an Eagles fan, and I might be playing for the St. Louis Rams, but the Asthma Team® is bigger than any one of those teams,” Draft said. “We’re all one big family, one big team. That team is very strong. There are around 20 million people in America that have asthma, let alone the people that are affected by it. We try to reach out and appreciate not only the ones that have asthma, but the ones tackling asthma as family, friends and professionals around the folks that have asthma.”

Just a couple weeks ago, Kevin and Kelly stood in a room that showcased players from across the NFL that have been recognized for doing the type of thing they’ve been doing in Philadelphia, even if the players weren’t advocating for Asthma Awareness.

The Asthma Team™ is a partnership between families, children and organizations across the country that are working diligently to teach their community that asthma is manageable and that asthma attacks are preventable. By being advocates for general improvements in public health and working with groups dedicated to decreasing outdoor air pollution and the prevalence of second-hand smoke, the prevalence of asthma can be greatly reduced.

Though Chris Draft was the one receiving the award for community service that night, he wanted Kevin and Kelly Hinton to be recognized for what they were able to do. He wanted them to know that it was because of help from people like them, that he was able to stand out among a very high-profile group of NFL Superstars.

“Even though we were around NFL celebrities and met others associated with the NFL, I just see Chris as an ordinary person who has been given a gift to not keep his asthma a secret,” Kevin said. “He’s been able to create a foundation and explore and attack issues that arise with asthma to show that even though you might be the biggest football player in the NFL, you’re really a person that can make a difference with asthma. Even if you don’t have asthma, you can still make a difference. The other NFL players that have organizations, I found that those men really know how to touch the lives of other individuals who have different problems like working with kids that need a mentor in their life.

“I feel that Chris has really been there for me as a figure that has asthma. He has really shown me that even though you have asthma, you can still accomplish your dreams and still conquer the goal of being who you are to the best of your ability.”