Climbers raise funds for lung disease research and treatment

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Climbers raise funds for lung disease research and treatment

The Event:

American Lung Association in Georgia

Fight for Air Climb, April 6

191 Peachtree Tower, 191 Peachtree Street N.E.

People can register online until April 3 and on the day of the event onsite.

You can also make donations or sponsor a team.

For donations and information go to: www.FightForAirClimbAtlanta.org

Julie Fredrick is sporting a new accessory on her wrist.

It’s a tattoo with one word: breathe.

It’s something that most of us take for granted. That is, until you’re diagnosed with a lung disease like cancer, asthma or emphysema.

Fredrick, a Midtown-based writer, got the tattoo in celebration of her elderly mother’s lung cancer going into remission but also as a reminder of how this simple act can be such a struggle for others trying to breathe normally.

On April 6, Fredrick will join others to help raise awareness and funds to support the American Lung Association’s work by climbing 52 floors in 191 Peachtree Tower.

If you believe in divine providence, which Fredrick said she does, then it was probably not a coincidence that her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in August 2012 and she received a flyer in the mail about the event a few months later.

“I’m doing this climb because I can and so many other people can’t breathe freely,” said Fredrick, who meets others a couple of times a week to train for the event. “It’s very difficult,” she said. “The first time I only went up 30 floors and it about killed me. I couldn’t breathe after the first 15.”

Similar “vertical road races” are held around the nation.

Fight for Air Climbs are most often held in skyscrapers, stadiums or arenas and involve climbing steps up multiple floors.

Teams and individuals combine fitness and raising awareness and funds for the association.

There’s a separate climb for firefighters, who have the additional challenge of carrying as much as 60 pounds worth of gear.

Dozens of firefighters from Gwinnett County, including John McGriff, are expected to hit the steps next month.

“You notice it (the extra weight) the whole time,” said McGriff, who is in his fourth year for the climb. By the 15th floor, his legs turn to jelly. In addition to helping the cause, McGriff said it helps promote firefighter safety and fitness.

Last year, the American Lung Association in Georgia raised more than $90,000 from the event, which involved more than 400 climbers. It is the organization’s largest fundraising event in Georgia.

“This really draws attention not just to your legs but to your lungs,” said June Deen, state director of the American Lung Association. She said lung disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. “Lung disease affects a lot of people and while we can’t prevent all lung diseases, we can prevent some and we’re still looking for cures.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women, according to the American Cancer Society.

In 2013, the American Cancer society expects 6,690 men and women in Georgia to be diagnosed with lung cancer and 4,670 of them to die of the disease.

Lung cancer death rates have been declining for men for about two decades but have just recently begun to show declines for women.

In 2011, the lung association estimates that 12.7 million adults had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which may include emphysema, bronchitis or both; and 25.9 million Americans suffered from asthma.

Lung disease is responsible for one in six deaths, according to the American Lung Association.

“We really don’t understand the value of just being able to inhale,” said fitness expert JoAnna Ward, a former college basketball player, who will participate in the climb and who helps others prepare for the event.

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