Remember when your parents would scream at you to not run up the stairs? Guess what? The American Lung Association is telling you it’s okay: on April 27, 2013 this well-respected non-profit is having their 4th Annual Fight for Air Climb fundraiser event at the Frost Bank Tower.
Participating Austinites have the opportunity to climb roughly 31 flights of stairs!
In all seriousness, many of us know someone who is affected by lung disease and Jessica Vess isn’t any different. “My brother has asthma, my in-laws have struggled to stop smoking, and my husband’s grandfather suffered from lung disease as well,” she told me in an interview. That’s why last year, when the KVUE Daybreak news anchor was approached about participating in the Fight for Air Climb, she wholeheartedly jumped in…or up.
Participating in Fight for Air Climb
Last year, 600 people participated in the event. The organizers are expecting at least that many, if not more, to participate this year. There are four ways you can take part in the climb on April 27th:
There are also three ways to donate to Fight for Air Climb:
Registration begins at 7:30 AM and the event starts at 9 AM. All climbers will be professionally timed, though when they sign up they have an option to choose to participate competitively, non-competitively or as a member of a competitive firefighter or police team. There is also an extreme fitness class whose participants will do the climb twice.
The rule for the climb is simple: Climb up, elevator down. “Going down the stairs is hard on the knees,” says committee member, Paige Lewandowski.
The registration fee is $25.00 and a minimum donation goal of $100.00 is required. Participants can sign up on the same day as the event.
The American Lung Association decided to change their event to a climb because of their growing relationship with fire departments. In Austin last year, the Oak Hill Fire Department walked away from the Fight for Air Climb with their heads held high in victory.
People of all ages are invited to do the climb. The oldest participant last year was well into his 70’s. Just remember that the Frost Bank Tower is roughly 31 flights of stairs. Vess mentioned that she completed the climb in about 6 minutes or so, frowning as she revealed that her husband beat her time by a minute!
This year, Jessica is co-chair of the event with Todd Dixon. Todd is the head of business relations at Alen Corporation, an air purifier company which is sponsoring the Breath Easy Lounge, a place for participants to rest after their arduous climb.
The Fight for Air Climb is accompanied by a street fair designed to promote lung health. Don’t worry, it won’t be boring.
Food trailers will be on site – we all know and love Pete’s Tortilla, Cliff Bar and Whole Foods. The latter two are corporate sponsors as well.
Kiddos can get their faces painted and participate in other activities. And St. David’s Georgetown will have a booth, as well as Boston Scientific, which has developed a procedure to treat chronic asthma.
Why the Fight for Air Climb Matters
It’s about the lungs. It’s about avoiding that gasp for air, and the panic you feel when you know you need just a bit more oxygen.
This year’s Lung Champion, Dr. Renee Simar, knows how that feels. She suffers from a rare disease called MAC, short for Micro-bacterial Avian Complex. Long story short, this disease is frequently misdiagnosed as pneumonia or tuberculosis. For five years, Dr. Simar had to struggle with shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, and a dry, hacking cough that left her incapacitated until she was finally diagnosed.
This is why the climb is so important. People need to know why fresh air is crucial. People need to know about diseases like MAC and treatment breakthroughs for asthma, emphysema, and the phalanx of allergies plaguing central Texas.
Currently, the Austin Fight for Air Climb has reached 64 teams, 250 climbers, and around $70K in fundraising against a goal of 100 teams, 600 climbers, and $150K in fundraising. Every little bit helps. With that being said, I couldn’t help but put my money where my mouth is, so I signed up to join Jessica Vess’ team, “The Vess Factor.” I’ll be dusting the dried Warrior Dash mud off of my knee braces and strapping them on once again on April 27th. It’s good exercise for a good cause – breathing.
What You Need to Know
- Competition is optional
- Bring the family
- Bring good shoes
- Training is on Saturdays at 9 AM at Mt. Bonnell
David Thomas is a freelance writer living, writing and experiencing life in Austin, Texas. He lives with his girlfriend in their mid-80′s duplex in the Wells Branch neighborhood. Find him on Twitter.
Photos by Gamma Images, courtesy of Jessica Vess.
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