Cathy Lee, cub writer
Climbing the stairs of the 62 story Aon Center one step at a time, junior Lois De Leon participated in the Fight for Air Climb fundraiser for lung disease research.
De Leon discovered the event as a sophomore while completing a MSA project on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and decided to join her mother’s colleagues to raise money for the fundraiser.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I was pretty fit, and the tower looked huge. It was 5K uphill, and really taxing on your lungs. You’re breathing hard the entire time. It feels like your gums [are] going to drop out of your mouth,” De Leon said.
Fight for Air Climb, hosted by the American Lung Association, took place on April 16, 2016, and raised a total of $229,479.90. Participants formed teams, donated money and took part in the climb to symbolize the struggle of lung disease patients, such as De Leon’s grandmother, who was affected by lung cancer.
“You are literally fighting for air as you complete the climb, just as lung cancer patients are fighting to live and continue breathing,” Audrey De Leon, sister of Lois, said.
Lois, who completed the climb within 16 minutes, thought it was demanding in many ways.
“It’s such an achievement to go up all those stairs…it’s really a mental challenge as well as physical one,” she said.
However, she felt motivated by the other participants to persevere.
“I tried to go the whole way without stopping…There was so many other people who are just as motivated as you are, and you’re cheered on by all these people…It’s great for people of all ages, and I just did it and ended up doing really well.”
In addition, her quick pace encouraged Audrey to finish the climb.
“I didn’t stop at all for a rest,” Audrey said. “My sister was almost leaping up the stairs, taking two or even three at a time! As a result, I felt inclined to go even faster and to not stop.”
Furthermore, Lois was inspired by the firefighters who participated in the climb.
“You get inspired by all the firefighters doing it. Every year there are forty or fifty firefighters who all go with full gear. I’m talking about oxygen tanks, masks, boots, the whole deal, and they walked up all those steps as if they were going to be responding to a fire.”
However, the most important aspect of Fight for Air Climb for Lois was the teamwork she found while fundraising with her team and the honoring of those who suffer from lung diseases.
“You’re climbing for the people who can’t. Because they can’t be here today, you climb for them in their place.”