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Signing day somersaults ASU gymnastics into advocacy work for cystic fibrosis

The Gym Devils have taken opportunities to learn more about cystic fibrosis, including Tuesday's signing day


Berlynn Jensen at her signing day to the Sun Devil's Gymnastics team at Desert Financial Arena, on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023.

It was all big smiles and happy cheers in the Gym Devils' practice facility Tuesday afternoon as young Berlynn Jensen celebrated her signing day with the team. 

Berlynn, 6, is a young girl with cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disorder that affects the lungs and creates unusually thick mucus. Gymnastics is beneficial to Berlynn and loosens mucus to provide better lung function.  

"We tried soccer and stuff like that, but her lungs can't handle it. This, she'll keep going and going. She loves it. She doesn't get tired," said Lindsay Jensen, Berlynn's mom. 

This is Berlynn's second year on the team as part of a program within the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation that helps children with her condition. The Gym Devils have worked with kids with cystic fibrosis before and have held meets to raise awareness and participated in volunteer opportunities.

"One of our alumni has a daughter who has cystic fibrosis and she's very heavily involved in the foundation," coach Jay Santos said. "So several years ago, we were looking for something for the team to be involved in that we had a connection to. And now Berlynn has been added into that mix."   

Being a part of the team has helped Berlynn socially as well. A naturally shy girl, she's learning to come out of her shell and let herself shine in the gym. While Berlynn has been interested in gymnastics from a very young age, the social aspect was always daunting.

"It was like the only thing that she would do when she was little," Lindsay said. "She wanted a bar for Christmas, and then it just escalated, and then we tried to take her to gymnastics but she was too scared. It was too much."

While the program aims to help Berlynn, the girls on the team have learned lessons from the young gymnast.  

"That first day when she came into the gym, she was really shy and held back, but I pulled her aside and we played a little bit on the bars and we actually took a photo when she was hanging by her knees on the bars," junior Cassi Barbanente said. 

Senior Hannah Scharf said she is thankful that she and her teammates get to have fun in the gym with Berlynn.

"I think I've definitely learned gratitude. We get to come in here five days a week, and she gets to come in every couple of weeks," Scharf said. 

Berlynn is present for all their home meets and is a positive influence all around. 

"She comes in here, she just loves it, she has fun," Santos said. "She's getting to do exactly what she wants to do, which is just gymnastics and have fun and have some of those normal experiences."

"I really think our community here at ASU and our team, coming into the gym and being able to run around, play around with everyone, having a good time jumping on the trampoline, it's a really interactive environment," Barbanente said. "I think that's definitely helped her with fitting into our team really well."

The Gym Devils' cystic fibrosis awareness meet this season is on Feb. 20 at 1 p.m. MST versus Utah at Desert Financial Arena.

Edited by Kathryn Field, Reagan Priest, Grace Copperthite and Piper Hansen.

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