Amy Allison '15 meets with Kennedy at the Flint Farmer's Market. (Photo courtesy of Kettering University)

[paypal_donation_button]FLINT, MI — Dr. Laura Sullivan, professor of Mechanical Engineering, was moved by a single mother’s attempts to solicit help from physicians for her teenage daughter Kennedy’s struggle with asthma.

Sullivan took the activist’s pursuit to heart and reached out to individuals in the medical community to discover potential efforts to help Kennedy.

Amy Allison ’15 meets with Kennedy at the Flint Farmer’s Market. (Photo courtesy of Kettering University)

“I was having conversations with a friend who had scoliosis about the idea of developing better lung capacity,” Sullivan said. “I asked some of the physicians I spent time with if wind instruments would have the same benefit for people with asthma and they all said it would be a great exercise. They all said it would be a great thing for anyone with asthma to do.”

Driven to help, Sullivan solicited assistance from a select group of friends on Facebook. She was hoping for a donation of a wind instrument for Kennedy. Within days, she received multiple commitments.

Amy Allison ‘15 was of the first responders to Sullivan’s request.

“Dr. Sullivan spearheaded this charity and she sent me a personal message and I knew I wanted to get involved,” Allison said.”I played the saxophone and clarinet when I was younger and I hadn’t played them since high school so I donated my clarinet.”

Starting from a single donation to one Flint resident, Sullivan has partnered with the Flint Institute of Music to launch “Kennedy’s Breath” — a program designed to introduce Flint children to the power of music for the purpose of healing.

Since its inception last year, Sullivan has personally raised over $2,000 to support the program. Children in Flint hoping to be more engaged with music can now receive a free instrument and lessons at the Flint Institute of Music through Kennedy’s Breath.

“We have to find ways to give Flint residents tools to have a control and decision-making over their progress. We have to find ways to bring residents healing without dictating it,” Sullivan said. “It’s about entrusting the future to the many and giving them the tools to take care of it.”

In Kennedy’s case, music is a tool to combat asthma. However, music can be more than that. It can empower children with values and skills that can be applied to multiple facets of life including the current challenges in Flint.

Allison had the opportunity to provide Kennedy an introductory lesson on the clarinet. In their meeting, Allison instructed Kennedy on how to assemble, play and care for the instrument.

“As soon as Kennedy had the clarinet, she was was whaling on it,” Allison said. “She was having so much fun. She loved it. Her mother followed up with us on Facebook and told us that she was playing it for the next few days. She found her passion and it’s the clarinet.”

The next time Allison visits with Kennedy will be her first clarinet recital in spring 2017.

“I’m hoping to cheer her on from the sidelines,” Allison said. “I want her to know that there are people out there who are rooting for her and on her side.”

Individuals interested in donating an instrument for the program can do so in person at the Flint Institute of Music (1025 E Kearsley St, Flint, MI). For other ways to get involved, please contact Dr. Laura Sullivan at or Jan Hartranft at

Written By Pardeep Toor | Contact: Pardeep Toor – – (800) 955-4464 ext. 5970