Step Up to the Challenge

Why We Climb

We climb for our friends and loved ones who suffer from lung cancer and all lung diseases.

Let's make sure everyone can benefit from healthy lungs.


Kathy & MandiMy name is Kathy, and Mandi is why I climb.

There are many great reasons to decide to do this, but for me it's a little personal! In December of 2016, I passed out at school because of an esophageal spasm (basically I choked on a Diet Coke and was out cold!). After a trip to the ER, a CT scan and a biopsy, they told me I had Lung Cancer. What!?!?!? Except for the couple of times in high school (which didn't work out for me), I never smoked! I went from thinking these doctors were crazy to freaking out a little bit!

So to make a long story short, I went through an upper right lobectomy in February. I ended up following that with four rounds of chemo, too many carbs to count (bread helps nausea), more naps than I care to admit and an army of loved ones who took care of me, worried about me and prayed for me....I'm good!

However, I'm not sure why I was the lucky one who only got a "little bit of cancer". You see, my good friend and school neighbor, Mandi Miles, fought this stupid stuff forever. Mandi was a quiet powerhouse who never complained...like...NEVER! She punched lung cancer square in the face, but the ugly monster kept coming back and she kept fighting. Sadly, Mandi passed away last spring. She passed away on the day of our first grade field trip. It started out as a dreary, rainy day...a sad day. However, when we got to the park with about 100 first graders, the sun came out. Kids were laughing and running all over under that bright sunshine...it was Mandi's sunshine! She keeps sending sunshine...I think she always will! – Kathy S. 


My name is Harold Whitnall, and this is why I climb.

Harold Whitnall FinishlineMy name is Harold Whitnall and I have COPD. I have unfortunately been through the feeling of my lungs collapsing 5 times and have had surgery twice. I live with this each and every day. During the past few years I have been able to enjoy multiple vacations with my wife and grandkids. In the most recent year I was able to take my grandchildren to Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota and Devil’s Tower, Wyoming…keeping up with them the whole time climbing and hiking. I also traveled to Washington, D.C. and New York City with my wife, brother and sister-in-law. I walked 9 miles one day and 8 the next.

Currently, I am preparing for my 4th Fight For Air Climb. I credit my ability to do these activities and this climb to the Memorial Health Care Pulmonary Therapy group. I began attending therapy, with this group, 7 years ago when my doctor told me that therapy was my only option before going on oxygen full time. I continue to go to therapy twice a week, every week, and have still prevented the need of additional oxygen. I will continue to fight, continue to exercise, continue to encourage others and keep living this amazing life with my family to the fullest. Thank you for the efforts put forth to raise awareness and funds to keep programs like this alive for those of us in need. – Harold  

Harold completed the 2017 Fight For Air Climb with only 35% lung function, and shaved 6 minutes off his climb time from 2016! Way to go Harold! 


Cassidy McIntosh StairwellMy name is Cassidy McIntosh, and this is why I climb.

I lost my mom, Linda McIntosh, on December 19, 2011 to lung cancer. She had fought cancer and won 3 previous times and was the definition of a true fighter. Ever since then I have wanted to do something to help fight against cancer, and to help prevent others from losing a loved one to this terrible illness. I had found my opportunity through one of my great friends, and have decided to continue with my own team. – Cassidy 


My name is Gwen Walsh, and this is why I climb.Gwen Walsh

I began climbing because I was a former smoker. I quit smoking 7 years ago, cold turkey. Quitting this way has given me the best gift. Not only am I healthier, but I have gained the mindset that I can truly do anything I put my mind to and actually stick with it. After the past year the climb has an even bigger meaning. We lost my Uncle Jim who suffered from COPD and we lost my Grandma Jean to lung cancer. I will continue to climb and fight for them and all those that endure lung disease. – Gwen 


Nici RopacMy name is Nici Ropac, and this is why I climb.

Every spring from around the time I was 17, I would get a chest cold. Sometimes it would last weeks, causing me to go to the doctor, and they would tell me it was bronchitis. I would get put on antibiotics and I would usually start to feel better. Five years ago, the antibiotics didn’t work. I continued to have chest cold symptoms, chest pain, and shortness of breath. I got a chest x-ray and it showed a large lesion in my right lung. Then I got a CT scan and was sent to see a pulmonologist, Dr. Abraham at Springfield Clinic. Dr. Abraham explained to me that this was an underdeveloped part of my lung. Normally this is caught in week old babies who have it removed. Because mine had not been caught, which is extremely rare, Dr. Abraham consulted with other doctors on how to proceed. Dr. Abraham explained everything, made sure I understood my options, and worked with me to decide what was best for me. Together we decided that I should have surgery. In December 2013, I had surgery to remove the cyst. The tissue slides from the surgery showed adenocarcinoma in the cyst. Due to this, in August 2014, I went back to surgery to have the right upper and middle lobes removed, which leaves me with only a third of my right lung. Due to the combined efforts of Dr. Abraham and Dr. Krupnick, at Barnes Jewish, I was able to start work on time as a high school math teacher and now, participate in this race. – Nici  


Brian & Will

My name is Brian, and Will is why I climb.

My son, Will, had bronchiolitis as an 18 month old, and we spent a few days at the St. John’s Children’s Hospital with him. It was scary. He couldn't get air, and they gave him breathing treatments every hour and oxygen too. He eventually levelled out and with the help of daily breathing treatments until he was 5, has a great quality of life. Now he doesn't take treatments at all and is thriving. That little brush with a situation where someone can't breathe, and someone so near and dear to me, ignited a passion in me to support this cause. – Brian 


Jane SwearinginMy name is Jane Swearingin, and this is why I climb.

I have decided to climb with the American Lung Association for several reasons. Raising awareness of air quality and lung diseases such as COPD, lung cancer and asthma is so important. Several of my family members have experienced chronic issues with their lungs, my father passed away from lung cancer and my daughter looks to have asthma—she's too young to diagnose at this point but is on an "asthma action plan." These are just a few of many examples of how the need for healthy lungs has affected my life and the lives of loved ones. By participating in and donating to this event, we can help fulfill the mission of the Lung Association, to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. – Jane 

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