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Leonia HS Senior Organizes ‘Breathe For Cuba’ Collection Drive

Sophia Vazquez , left, and her mother, Keyla, are collecting gently used nebulizers to ship to Cuba. Photo Credit: Crissa Skarimbas
An example of a nebulizer needed for the collection drive. Photo Credit: James Heilman, MD/Wikimedia Commons

LEONIA, N.J. -- As the weather experts watched and plotted the course for Hurricane Matthew and where it would hit the United States, Sophia and Keyla Vazquez intently watched for news updates out of Cuba. Keyla Vazquez was born on the island nation, her daughter is a first-generation American, and they still have family there.

Sophia wanted to help the people of Cuba devastated by the hurricane. She contacted the New Jersey congressional representatives, but never received a response. So she took it upon herself. 

Asthma is very common in young children and seniors. In Cuba, patients have to stand on line at clinics to use a communal nebulizer. 

Her great aunt died of asthma complications in Cuba at age 22, and her sister suffers from it, as well.

“This was something my daughter wanted and could do,” said Keyla Vazquez.

In researching collection drives, they found there was a lot of red tape involved in shipping items to Cuba. But then they found based in Pittsburgh, Pa., which has been shipping medical supplies to Cuba and other countries for twenty years. They have an effort called BREATHE HOPE which raises asthma awareness and ships gently used nebulizers to poor countries, Cuba being one of them. Currently they are staging efforts to ship to Cuba.

Sophia named her local drive "Breathe For Cuba."

She is collecting new and gently used nebulizers for the people of Cuba. Collection sites include the Leonia Police Department at 1 Wood Park, Leonia, and the Fort Lee Senior Center at 319 Main Street, Fort Lee. The collection will run through Oct. 28.

For more information on Sophia’s Breathe for Cuba drive, visit the Facebook page at

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