Over one billion people in the world are living with a disability. That makes individuals with disabilities the largest minority in the world.

Living with a disease or disability while being a college student can undoubtedly be frustrating at times. Trying to make friends can nearly feel impossible, especially if being consistently asked questions like, “why aren’t you drinking” or “why are you going to bed so early?”

College students battling disease or disability yearn for acceptance and support. Although there is a lot of support for mental health, race, etc., there’s nothing out there for physical diseases.

Out of that need, Bella Soul, 501(c)(3), was born.

Shannon Strader, now an alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, really struggled through her first few years of college. She was the first person to ever be diagnosed with Posterior Nutcracker Syndrome, a rare kidney disease where the renal vein is anatomically displaced and compressed by the spinal cord and aorta.

The idea came to Strader one night in her dorm room, lying in agonizing pain while listening to her friends socialize in a nearby room. Strader felt as though she was “missing out on ‘living’,” which made her pain seem even worse. At the time, there was no national or campus organization devoted to connecting individuals struggling with physical disease or chronic illness. She was tired of feeling alone with no one to relate to, so she decided to be proactive about it.

Strader started a blog to try to connect college students battling disease or disability, which then blossomed into its current incarnation as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization: Bella Soul.

Bella Soul serves as a support system and educational resource for college students living with chronic health problems or medical conditions. Not only does the organization offer mental support, but Bella Soul also provides financial aid in the form of scholarships to students battling college tuition and medical bills.

Bella Soul strives to connect students in similar medical situations and to put an end to the feeling of loneliness in college. The organization encourages students living with disease or disability to share their experiences and advice by social networking. Ultimately, Bella Soul’s purpose is to help young adults feel comfortable and in control of their bodies, regardless the circumstances the students may find themselves in.

Interested in getting involved with the nonprofit organization, Bella Soul? Here’s what you can do:
1. Join Bella Soul at their race this summer. Bella Soul is teaming up with the Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation to put on a race to raise money and awareness for cerebral palsy research as well as for students battling disease and/or disability. The race is either 2.5-mile walk or 5K run, and is taking place on Saturday, July 18th in Germantown Hills, Illinois. For more information, visit Bella Soul’s website here.
2. Apply for Bella Soul’s scholarship. Bella Soul is currently offering a small scholarship to college students in need of financial aid. Applications are due on August 3rd, 2015 and are to be turned into [email protected] Visit Bella Soul’s scholarship page (here) for more information and scholarship requirements.
3. Donate today! If you’re interested in donating to Bella Soul, you are able to do so on the website.
4. Start a Bella Soul chapter at your university. Bella Soul recently became a registered student organization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ultimately, Bella Soul hopes that universities and colleges across the nation create chapters of their own to serve as a community to students battling disease or disability.

Always remember that sickness may take away your body, but nothing can take away your Soul!

For any further questions, please email them to [email protected]

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