Rita’s Fund

Microgrants to combat health care disparities for community-based projects providing resources to individuals affecting their quality of life

Why Rita’s Fund is needed more than ever

As a result of a nationwide initiative to uncover disparities within the health care system, called the Listening Tour, the CHEST Foundation created a grant program to support those who need it the most. Learn more about the Listening Tour.

Named for the first recipient of this support, Rita’s Fund will award $2,500-$10,000 to community-based projects providing resources to individuals to change their quality of life drastically. The grants will assist with coverage for medical equipment, transportation, and access to technology for those living with lung disease and other medical complications.  

Rita Castro, the fund’s namesake

Who qualifies to receive a grant through Rita’s Fund?

  • Any patient-focused or public service organization looking to assist a vulnerable community, defined as those at-risk or persons classified as uninsured, underinsured, and/or living below the poverty line.
  • Intended use must be to provide community-based relief for individuals with immediate lung health needs and not to conduct research.
  • Recipients must be based in one of the following counties: Atascosa, Bee, Bexar, Live Oak, McMullen, Nueces, San Patricio.

Areas of need to apply for the grant may include, but are not limited to:

  • Home health care
  • Modification to home for access and safety
  • Access to technology
  • Medical equipment (including, but not limited to)
    • Oxygen concentrators, nebulizers, wheelchairs/power chairs, hospital beds, pulse oximeters, spirometers, CPAP machines, disposables for use with machines
  • Transportation
  • Grocery/food purchases and/or delivery
  • Innovations to improve community welfare

The story behind the Fund

People battling lung disease fight for every breath. For many of them, the struggles aren’t isolated to the physical limits of their lungs. They search for answers and struggle to validate their diagnosis. They try to find a health care provider who takes their form of payment and insurance, one who they trust and demonstrates concern. Getting the appropriate medications and medical equipment strains their resources or, in some cases, is beyond their ability. Many of these people cope with poverty, unemployment, and systemic racism, and have not found their voice to advocate for a better standard of care for themselves.

For Rita Castro, getting to an office visit at any one of her 13 different doctors can be a lengthy test of her will. Rita is legally blind with limited mobility. She’s forced to explain that moment after moment when she’s trying to get a ride to the office, find the entrance to the building, press the right button on the elevator, locate the switch to open the door, fill out paperwork, and follow a nurse down a hallway.

Again and again, even people she has already told forget that she can’t see. Initially, Rita didn’t notice when her asthma had worsened and her breathing became impaired in early 2020.  When she couldn’t walk more than 50 steps without getting out of breath, she learned that she had pulmonary hypertension. Fluid had filled her lungs. Within months, she required supplemental oxygen to help her breathe.

She tries to monitor her oxygen levels at home, but her limited vision restricts her. She often waits on her son to get home from work so he can help. She finds doctors she is able to trust, but more than anything, she needs an advocate when her son isn’t able to help her.

“Most of the time, people are very understanding, and they’ll go ahead and take their time and work with me very slowly,” she said. “I think, in general, a lot of people are in a hurry. They can move fast. And I guess they think I can move fast too, and it’s just not the case.”

“I know it’s inevitable that eventually, at some point, there will be no coming back from this (loss of vision). And so I feel my world is getting smaller and darker.”

Support Rita’s Fund

Programs like Rita’s Fund are made possible by the support of people like you. Please consider donating to support Rita’s Fund and other CHEST Foundation initiatives to combat health disparities. Donate to support grant programs like Rita’s Fund.