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Members Raise Funds to End Lung Disease in ALA Fight for Air Climb

May 31, 2021
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Members of our Central Florida Chapter and ChapterWISE recently participated in the annual American Lung Association (ALA) Fight for Air Climb, in which they climbed 1,000 steps at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando, FL, and raised $3,600 to support ALA’s fight against lung disease (including COVID-19). This year’s participants were given the option of climbing the steps in person at the stadium (while adhering to social distancing and mask requirements) or virtually at their own pace, with about 150 total climbers participating in the live event.

According to Heather Earl, a member of our Central Florida and West Florida chapters and Women in Safety Excellence (WISE) Common Interest Group, this is the third year that the chapter has participated. Earl says she first got the idea when she saw a post from fellow WISE member Abby Ferri about her participation in the ALA climb in Minneapolis, MN.

“I always wanted to get involved with the climb as the ALA’s vision to end lung disease is personal to me, since I have family with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a cousin who died of COVID-19,” Earl says. She also attributes her involvement to the group’s mission, which directly relates to workplace safety, given the many lung diseases that affect workers, such as black lung, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

“I thought it would be a great fit for our chapter to get involved and I came to find out many of our members have personal stories about lung disease that connected them with ALA’s mission,” Earl says.

Emily Schoonover, a member of the Central Florida Chapter, WISE and Emerging Professionals in OSH common interest groups, also participated in the climb and explains that participating in the event is all about family for her.

“My passion for the event is due to my grandfather passing away from lung cancer a month before I was born, my husband's grandmother being diagnosed with lung cancer when I was training for my first climb, and my husband’s grandfather passing away from lung cancer,” Schoonover says. “My grandfather's and husband’s grandfather’s diseases were likely due to workplace exposure, as they both worked in the coal mines for many years. Participating in this event gives me the opportunity to do it in their memories as well as raise awareness and funds to do what I love in working to protect others.”

Schoonover says that she chose the virtual climb option because it gave her the freedom to participate on her own time and in her own way, as she had recently returned to work from maternity leave and wanted to include her daughter in the event.

Other members including Matt Law, a professional member of the chapter, and a member of the Consultants and Training and Communications practice specialties and Emerging Professionals in OSH Common Interest Group, participated in the live event. He says that he and fellow chapter members enjoyed the experience, despite restrictions.

“The Fight for Air Climb was exciting, even under these challenging conditions, and it was empowering to see so many people there who are passionate about these same issues,” Law says. “Those of us that are competitive did find the conditions (e.g., masks, staggered starts, very narrow stairs and paths) constraining. At the same time, I think all of us were just happy to be able to engage in fundraising efforts, see and support each other at the climb, and be a part of something so important to our community.”

While this is his second year participating with the chapter, Chapter President Josh Densberger, also a member of our Consultants and Training and Communications practice specialties, participated in the climb years earlier as a firefighter. Densberger says contributing to events like these is a great way to give back.

“It’s always important to contribute to something that has a deeper mission than just getting more pay or personal rewards,” Densberger says. “This is a community-oriented task, so you feel like you’re contributing to society by helping to fight these diseases. It’s one of the few community things we may have left, so it’s nice to be a part of something that is for the greater good.”

Photo: Members of our Central Florida Chapter and the ChapterWISE meet before the Fight for Air Climb while adhering to social distancing requirements. Photo courtesy of Heather Earl.

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