By Nyesha Stone
Climbing 47 flights of stairs at the US Bank Center is only one of the goals for the American Lung Association (ALA) in Wisconsin, their main goal is to raise awareness and funds for lung disease.
On March 10 starting at 6:30 a.m., almost 3,000 climbers participated in the 10th anniversary of the Fight for Air Climb. Each climber received a shirt, a brown paper bag to put their belongings, water and snacks, a medal once they reached the top, and, more importantly, the honor of knowing they helped participate in the fight against lung disease.
“We raise a lot of money,” said Director of Public Policy and Communications at American Lung Association of WI Dona Wininsky about the event. “And it is the most important thing I’ve been a part of.”
This is their biggest fundraiser and the proceeds support the mission of the ALA which is, “to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease,” according to their website.
There were multiple “waves” of climbers. The first wave contained the ultimate climbers. These climbers had an hour to climb the flights of stairs as many times as they could. Then, the regular climbers were next. They either walked or ran up the stairs, one time and they could take as long as they wanted.
After the climb was the check presentation ceremony with the sponsors Anthem Blue Cross and the Blue Shield. This lead to the Anthem Firefighter Challenge that included around 50 firefighters and first responder teams. The event concluded with the Anthem Firefighter Challenge awards ceremony, and throughout the day, the high energy never died down.
Volunteers, staff and other climbers encouraged one another with signs, smiles, hugs and inspiring words.
Fight for Air Climb is not a race, although some participants treat it as such. Each climber’s climb is timed by an orange band that is attached to their shoe. Once they’ve reached the top, a volunteer then cut the band off and their time was readily available within 15 minutes.
Every 10 flights, water was provided for the climbers if they chose to stop and take a sip. Before each wave of climbers began, they were given a quick warm up with two volunteers to get their body stretched out for the big climb.
First-time runner, but a long-time supporter, Cindy Dobberke, sat back and watched her husband do the climb for nine years, and she decided it was finally her time to participate.
“It’s great to raise awareness,” said Dobberke. “I’ve sat here and watched the excitement and thought it was time to run.”
Dobberke trained three times a week since December, and her goal was not to be the fastest, but to just make it to the top.
Approximately, there are 158,000 cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) among Wisconsin adults, according to Wisconsin Department of Health Services. COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease, and Flight for Air Climb is fighting against these types of diseases.
“People are fighting for a cause,” said Senior at Hamilton High School LaDae’meona McDowell. “This event is important because it improves the community and it’s just fun.”
McDowell has an intensive background in volunteering, but this is her first time volunteering for the climb. Her teacher informed her about the climb, and McDowell was intrigued. Choosing to volunteer at the event was a no-brainer, and it helped her fill some of her volunteer hours while simultaneously supporting a great cause.
American Lung Association in WI’s goal is $720,000.00 and they’ve raised $701,589.78. To find out how to donate visit their website at http://action.lung.org/site/TR?fr_id =14964&pg=entry.