For those suffering from lung disease, every breath can be a challenge. Millions of Americans are affected by asthma, lung cancer, air pollution, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or other lung diseases. UnitedHealthcare, the American Lung Association, and residents of Northwest Indiana are literally stepping up to raise funds for research, education, and patient programs at the Fight for Air Climb in Chicago on March 10.
UnitedHealthcare is the presenting sponsor of the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb in Chicago. The event at the Presidential Towers features the longest stair climb in the country with a total of 180 floors.
“Our mission is to help people live healthier lives and to help the health system work better for everybody,” said Michael Telesky, Vice President of Key Sales and Account Management at UnitedHealthcare. “The mission of the Lung Association is to battle lung disease. We think that this event is a perfect tie-in together.”
Telesky serves as the co-chair of the American Lung Association (ALA) Local Leadership Board. His passion for helping those with lung disease comes from his experience as a former smoker.
“Personally, I started smoking as a teenager,” Telesky said. “I was one of those that started very young and smoked for many years. This is a way to give back personally, since I supported the tobacco industry for so long.”
Colleen Ryan, Senior Manager of Special Events at the American Lung Association in Greater Chicago said the event aims to strengthen connections.
“The partnership [between ALA and UnitedHealthcare] has expanded the reach of the American Lung Association and allowed access to more information to those living with COPD, asthma and lung cancer, to name a few,” she said.
Participants of the Fight for Air Climb get a glimpse into the lives of those with lung disease as they climb floor after floor, and experience being out of breath.
“I think it’s important to everybody, whether you smoke or not,” Telesky said. “Smoking is just one part of lung health. If you’ve never battled lung disease and you’re climbing up 180 floors, it really shows you what it is like to struggle to breathe. As you get up to the higher floors of the building, you really feel it. It’s a great way to take a walk in someone else’s shoes.”
With more than 2,000 participants in last year’s Fight for Air Climb of Chicago, the event makes a substantial contribution in raising awareness and funds for those suffering from lung disease. More than 100 Northwest Indiana residents joined the fun last year, showing that the Region is committed to giving back to the community.
“I was really impressed that we have 100 coming in from Northwest Indiana,” Telesky said. “I think that shows how important this cause and mission are to the community. You’ve got environmental factors, particularly around Northwest Indiana, that are affecting the air that we breathe. We see that. We’re one of the only counties in Indiana that needs to do emission testing on our cars for the quality of our air.”
Participants can choose to climb 1, 2, 3, or all 4 towers. Each tower has 45 floors. Those choosing to take on all four towers will climb an impressive 2,340 steps. Participants of all abilities are welcome, including novices that train to tackle one tower, firefighting teams that carry 80 pounds of equipment with them, or elite climbers who sprint their way to the top, tackling all four towers in an impressive 15 minutes.
The experience offers climbers a chance to feel a strong sense of personal accomplishment when they finally reach the top of the tower and when they reach the height of their fundraising potential. The UnitedHealthcare team hopes to raise $15,000 for this year’s Fight for Air Climb. Telesky will be joining fellow climbers to scale the towers for the fifth time. He personally hopes to complete the four towers in less than 35 minutes, improving upon his original climb time of 42:36 and his most recent climb time of 36:09.
“We’re proud to be the presenting sponsor of the climb for five years in a row,” Telesky said. “We’d love to see more people from Northwest Indiana come into Chicago and do the climb. I think that 100 was great representation coming over, but the more the merrier!”
Those interested are welcome to register as an individual, a family team, a corporate team, or to join an existing team. Each climber is assigned a start time and is greeted by volunteers when they arrive at the Presidential Towers. Pre-event activities are held onsite before the timed event. After the climb, participants are invited to the After Party to celebrate their accomplishment.
“The Fight for Air Climb at Presidential Towers is an energetic, exciting event,” Ryan said. “It is a timed event; however, each participant climbs at their own pace. It’s only a race if they want it to be!”
To learn more about the Fight for Air Climb in Chicago and to register, visit them online here.