The American Lung Association and UnitedHealthcare encourages the community to climb with purpose at the Chicago Fight for Air Climb

The American Lung Association and UnitedHealthcare encourages the community to climb with purpose at the Chicago Fight for Air Climb

Every year countless walks and runs are held to raise money and awareness for different causes. Whether it be for breast cancer or Alzheimer's or heart disease, most of us have at least heard about or participated in one of these events. What many people might not be familiar with, though, is Fight for Air Climb.

The very first Fight for Air Climb was held by the American Lung Association (ALA) 12 years ago at the Oakbrook Terrace Tower in Chicago to bring people who have been impacted by lung disease together in a unique way.

“We really wanted to get people out and make them aware of their breathing. We like to say ‘for every step, take a breath,’ and we wanted to come up with something totally different to represent this. It’s not just the typical walk or run--it’s a stair climb,” said Danielle Villarreal-Trojanek, executive director for the American Lung Association.

The event not only raised an incredible amount of money for lung disease research, but it was also a fantastic opportunity for people to spread awareness about lung disease and share information. Since then, Fight for Air Climbs has popped up all around the country and has raised over 71 million dollars in support of ALA.

This year’s local Fight for Air Climb will take place at Chicago’s Soldier Field on May 21 starting at 8 a.m. CST. Countless individuals and teams, including UnitedHealthcare, this year’s presenting sponsor, have already signed up for the 1,958 stair climb to show their support and help fight for a cure.

"We are honored to partner again with the Lung Association in Greater Chicago," said UnitedHealthcare Vice President of Sales Michael Telesky. "We look forward to helping to raise awareness for the 2023 Fight for Air Climb and the association’s continued efforts to improve lung health and prevent lung disease.

What will be especially exciting about this year’s event is the participation of local first responders. Firefighters and policemen will come dressed in full gear to take on the challenge. Their fight to breathe in all of their gear emphasizes just how important lung health is.

“It’s moving to see them going up the steps with their full gear and all their equipment. At the end, they're so exhausted but the fact that they’re able to do it is just incredible. It’s an amazing experience to see them come together as a team and cheer each other on and wait for those that are still coming up the stairs and be able to do that together,” said Villarreal-Trojanek.

The ALA and UnitedHealthcare encourage everyone to come out and participate regardless of age or fitness level. There will even be a spectator area so people who are unable to participate can still show their support by cheering the participants on. Lung health is something that truly impacts all of us.

“Many people think that since they aren’t affected by lung disease or don’t know anyone with lung disease they can’t participate, but every breath of air you're breathing right now is clean air and that's what we're advocating for: clean, healthy breathing. It’s nice to see everybody come together and step up for clean air as a community,” said Villarreal-Trojanek.

For those wishing to take part, you can register as an individual and do your fundraising, or join a team to help them reach their fundraising goal. UnitedHealthcare has already raised over $3,000 for lung disease research and is looking for more team members to hit its $5,000 goal.

“I am so excited to be back in person climbing in support of the American Lung Association this year after supporting them from Sestri Levante, Italy last year where my wife, Eileen and I climbed to the top of the mountains around the Bay of Silence," said Telesky.

At the end of the day, the Chicago Fight for Air Climb is the perfect way to get yourself moving while also helping people who have been impacted by lung disease to get moving, too.

“It gives everyone this sense of accomplishment. It’s such a supportive atmosphere and it’s moving to see everyone coming together and enjoying the space and bringing to life our vision of a world free of lung disease,” said Villarreal-Trojanek.

So, skip that morning run or bike on the lake and come out to support a good cause. Every day we climb countless amounts of stairs, but this will be a climb you won’t forget.

To learn more about the Chicago Fight for Air Climb, visit the website here. To help UnitedHealthcare in its fundraising mission and to join its team, check out its fundraising page