A Daughter’s Dedication Drives Stacey Woodward to Run

Denny and family

Denny and family

A Daughter’s Dedication Drives Stacey Woodward to Run

This year’s Chicago Marathon isn’t Stacey Woodward’s first, but it may be her most emotional. This marathon is dedicated to her father, Denny Wright, who passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in December.

Stacey is the assistant news director at WBAL TV in Maryland, and a member of Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team for the Chicago Marathon. She’s running for advancements in COPD research as a way to memorialize her father, who spent much of his time learning more about the disease and researching COPD treatments.

“Besides being stubborn, we’re not alike at all,” Stacey laughs of her father.

After serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War, Denny took up flying as an amateur pilot.

“He was diagnosed with PTSD after the Vietnam War, and I think flying was a bit therapeutic for him,” Stacey reflects.

As Denny flew over the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Stacey was across the country in Sacramento. There, in a city where she knew no one, she found a community of runners. In her early 20s she joined a team and began training.

When he was later diagnosed with COPD, Denny had to make several lifestyle changes. Once he was on oxygen he could no longer fly. “That really upset him,” Stacey says.

But Denny continued to seek adventure, including traveling and spending time with friends where he was “always the life of the party.” As travel became increasingly difficult, Denny’s determination and curiosity only grew. He decided to become as informed as he could about his condition, which included reading the latest research on COPD and working with his health care providers to explore additional treatment options.

Denny with a young Stacey

Denny with a young Stacey

The Department of Veterans Affairs later confirmed that chemical exposure during his time in the army had contributed to Denny’s illness, along with several other risk factors. While tobacco use is the most common cause of COPD, environmental factors and genetics also play a role.

Unfortunately, COPD research remains vastly underfunded and the role of environmental factors, including chemical exposure, in the development of COPD isn’t fully understood.

Despite Denny’s effort and attempts to receive a lung transplant, he passed away on December 1, 2017 at 70 years old.

Denny donated his body to science to contribute to the advancement in COPD research. Stacey joins him by running for the Lung Power Team and fundraising for current and future research.

When she struggles during a run, Stacey thinks of her dad—and she surrounds herself with support, including many of his friends from the VFW. There’s a certain amount of stubbornness—perhaps better called persistence—required to run a marathon, and she has her dad to thank for that.

Stacey says of the calm that she experiences after a run, “It’s rejuvenating. Running is a journey. Often I do not look forward to it, but I love the feeling after I’m done.”

To support Stacey and her father’s dedication to COPD research, donate to her fundraising.

Alex Simundza isn’t letting asthma slow him down

Alex Simundza isn’t letting asthma slow him down

Alex at CowaLUNGa

Alex at the end of a ride

Despite being diagnosed with asthma at an early age, Alex Simundza always loved playing sports. With the support of his parents and doctors he found ways to manage his asthma and continue playing low-intensity sports like baseball. By keeping his inhaler handy and following his doctor’s instructions, Alex lived an active life.

Then in eighth grade a back injury changed everything. Alex underwent surgery after surgery attempting to repair damage to multiple discs in his lower back, but nothing seemed to work. Finally in high school Alex underwent multiple spinal fusions. It seemed his athletic days were over.

For the next several years Alex found that his asthma worsened. He gained weight and found it difficult to do even basic daily tasks without triggering breathing difficulty. Cardiovascular exercise was the last thing on his mind, but he also knew he couldn’t let his health continue to deteriorate.  After talking with his doctors and conducting extensive research, Alex embarked on a low-intensity exercise plan that combined resistance training and indoor cycling.

Alex’s health gradually improved and by the time he was ready to attend college, he knew he wanted to work in health and fitness. When he found the exercise science major at Western Illinois University, he knew he’d found a career path filled with personal meaning.

Today Alex is a Health Fitness Professional at AbbVie’s Vitality Fitness Center, where he often helps other people with asthma find exercise options that don’t trigger episodes. Though living with asthma is different for everyone, they see that Alex found a way to be active, and he feels that helps him connect with the members living with their own health issues.

“Some people think, ‘you’re a personal trainer and you should be in the best shape of your life.’ But when they see that I’m just like them, they know that they can ask me any question they want.”

Alex at spin class on July 4th

When Alex found cycling, he found a sport that allowed him to be both introspective and competitive. “My dad told me that 100 might be too much for me. He said, ‘you might want to try 50 or 60 miles instead. I said, 100 is good. So my first ride was 100 miles. Pretty good,” he says with a light laugh. Alex feels that cycling and strength training have improved his health and help him manage his asthma. He also makes sure to keep in close contact with his doctor and always has inhaler with him.

Riding his bike also restored the competitive nature that he’d lost during the seven years before his final spinal surgery. Alex describes the joy in being able to train for CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour and give advice to other people trying to improve their overall fitness with cycling. He suggests new riders gain endurance by building a foundation.

“Put your time in. It may seem boring, but spin classes can keep you motivated.” He also suggests watching a movie, which is how he got through long indoor rides at first. Once you start riding outside, find a route that appeals to you. His other piece of advice for long rides? “Always pack the right gear,” including your inhaler if you’re riding with asthma.

Alex will follow other day riders from Gurnee into the quiet waters of Williams Bay, Wisconsin. As the ride path winds into the countryside, his thoughts will likely mirror those he’s had on many cycling tours in the past, “I keep peddling. I listen to the constant whooshing on the pavement and watch the therapeutic rotating of the wheels on the concrete. The constant buzz,” he says, “is like a metronome. It’s really peaceful.”

“I’m excited to be able to ride and support a cause that has affected me almost my entire life.”

To support Alex’s ride at CowaLUNGa and RHA’s asthma programs, visit his fundraising page.

Over 200 Cyclists Ride to Fight Lung Disease at CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 25, 2018
 
Contact: Erica Krutsch
Desk: 312-628-0225 
Cell: 734-262-4527

Over 200 cyclists ride to fight lung disease at CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour

WHAT: Respiratory Health Association’s CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour is an annual cycling event from Lake County, Illinois through southern Wisconsin. Over 200 cyclists of all ages from across Chicagoland will line up at Gurnee Mills to pedal as far as 190 miles in Respiratory Health Association’s 22nd annual CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour. Participants will bike 18 miles, one, two or three days and cross the finish line in Hubertus, Wisc. The event will raise $200,000 for Respiratory Health Association’s lung disease research and programs.

WHY: The tour raises awareness and funds to fight lung diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and to support clean air and other healthy lung initiatives. This year’s event kicks off with special guests Illinois State Senator Terry Link, Lake County Board Member Paul Frank and youth advocates for lung health from the Catalyst Youth Prevention Group of Stevenson High School. Respiratory Health Association will thank participants for the important roles they played in passing Illinois’ new Tobacco 21 legislation, which raises the tobacco purchase age to 21 from 18, a policy proven to reduce teen smoking. The deadline for Gov. Rauner to sign Tobacco 21 into law is August 27.

WHEN: Saturday – Monday, August 4, 5 and 6, 2018. Start line media opportunities begin at 7:00 a.m. Ride begins at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: Start line located in Gurnee Mills Parking Lot H, at the intersection of Interstate 94 and Grand Avenue (IL 132) in Gurnee, Ill. Cyclists will travel through southern Wisconsin Aug. 5 and 6 with stops in Williams Bay, Whitewater, and Hubertus, Wisc.

SCHEDULE FOR PHOTO/VIDEO OPPORTUNITIES:

  • 7:00 a.m. Riders begin arriving in Gurnee Mills Parking Lot H to check in
  • 9:00 a.m. The Charity Bike Tour officially kicks off with Lake County legislators ringing the official start line bell. Riders depart for Wisconsin as a mass start.
  • Media opportunities at other points of the ride can be arranged by contacting Erica Krutsch, RHA Director of Marketing & Communications, at 734-262-4527.

INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES (REQUESTED IN ADVANCE IF POSSIBLE):

  • Hundreds of cyclists, many of whom are personally affected by lung disease
  • Youth advocates for lung health from the Catalyst Youth Prevention Group of Stevenson High School (Lincolnshire, Ill.), representing the youth sector of Stand Strong Coalition
  • Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association
  • Illinois State Senator Terry Link
  • Lake County Board Member Paul Frank

###

Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader since 1906. Today, the association works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air and help people live better through education, research and policy change. For more information, visit www.lungchicago.org.

Register Now for Hike for Lung Health 2018

Registration for Hike for Lung Health 2018 is now open! Join us on Sunday, September 16 for our annual walk and fun festival to benefit Respiratory Health Association and other local lung health organizations.

Hike for Lung Health is a charity walk held in Chicago’s beautiful Lincoln Park that raises awareness and funds for lung disease research and programs. Hundreds of participants attend the charity walk, and their efforts help the 1 million Chicagoland residents affected by asthma, COPD, lung cancer and other lung diseases.

Choose to walk one mile or three miles as a member of Respiratory Health Association’s team, form a team of your own or raise funds for your favorite Charity Partner.

(Need fundraising advice? Check out RHA’s official guide to fundraising.)

Last year featured The Jesse White Tumblers

Fun for the whole family!

Once you’ve completed the charity walk, enjoy some snacks and family-friendly entertainment including a bounce house, face painting and craft tables while listening to great music provided by our event DJ.

Each year, participants also have the opportunity to see special guest entertainers perform.

Can’t make it to Hike this year?

Virtual Walker option is available and perfect for those who are unable to attend Hike in person. .

Many pulmonary rehabilitation groups also enjoy forming Pulmonary Rehabilitation Virtual Walk Teams. By incorporating Hike for Lung Health into weekly rehab sessions, past participants have noted that they experienced new focus, extra incentive and a fun twist in their regular schedule.

Ready? Register today!

Pre-register and your $15 registration fee includes a Hike for Lung Health T-shirt, personal fundraising page, snacks and access to all the after-walk activities. Day-of-event registration is $20 and availability of T-shirt sizes cannot be guaranteed.

Her Mother’s Memory Pushes Melanie to the Finish

Two women smiling

Melanie with her mother

Melanie Santarelli ran the Chicago marathon when she was 10 weeks pregnant. 

The accomplishment speaks to a toughness that Melanie learned from her own mother, Theresa, whose battle with cancer spurred Melanie to begin running. 

At 47, doctors diagnosed Theresa with stage four squamous cell cancer of unknown primary. Squamous cell lung cancer accounts for 30 percent of all lung cancers. After ruling other cancers out, doctors strongly suspected lung cancer. Theresa was a smoker for many years although she quit several years earlier on her 40th birthday. 

Melanie recalls her mother as healthy and active, and the cancer diagnosis came as a shock. 

“You think you’ve quit,” Melanie says, “You don’t realize that these effects carry with you even if you change the behavior. The body just doesn’t turn around like that.” 

Despite the diagnosis, Theresa continued her work as a family and child therapist, working long hours to help families in crisis. Melanie recalls that despite a mentally and emotionally demanding job, her mother always made time for her family. 

Theresa endured rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, always putting her family ahead of herself. She experienced terrible pain as the cancer spread and hindered her ability to walk. 

After three years of struggling, Theresa passed away, just four months before Melanie’s wedding. 

“She was and is an absolute inspiration,” Melanie says, “She never wanted to give up.” 

Woman with stroller and toddler running

Melanie running with her children

Melanie took up running as a way to process the loss. Theresa was a sprinter, and Melanie felt connected to her as she ran up and down Chicago’s lakefront. 

This year Melanie will run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as a member of Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team. The funds raised benefit the Association’s work to advance lung cancer research and help people quit smoking. 

Though this is her third marathon, Melanie continues to set the bar higher for herself and hopes to finish with a 4:20 time. During her most difficult training sessions, the memory of Theresa’s determination pushes her toward the finish. 

“The training is harder than the marathon,” Melanie explains. “The marathon is the reward at the end. If you can get the through the training, you can get through anything. That’s the mental toughness.” 

Now a mother herself, Melanie feels closer to her mother than ever. Whenever she runs, she mentally checks in with her mom and updates her on her life. 

“She gave me this body, and I’m able to do this because of her. She’s my motivator and my strength.” 

To support Melanie Santarelli and lung cancer research, donate to her fundraising campaign.

22nd Annual CowaLUNGa Takes Place August 4-6, 2018

Registration for CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2018 is now open! Escape the noise of the city for a weekend and explore the scenic Midwest as you bike through northern Illinois into southern Wisconsin.

About CowaLUNGa 2018

Along the way, you’ll experience an unparalleled level of camaraderie and support from other cyclists and Respiratory Health Association, while helping RHA achieve its vision of healthy lungs and clean air for all.

This is RHA’s 22nd year hosting the CowaLUNGa bike ride, so you can rely on our expertise from years of experience to give you a world-class event.

Choose to ride 18 or 65 miles in one day, 130 miles in two days or 190 miles over three days. Riders who select the 2 or 3 Day options may also opt to do a Century Ride on Day 2.

What’s Included

All routes are one-way with full SAG and medical support and include two daily rest stops, breakfast and dinner. Free overnight parking is available onsite at Gurnee Mills for the event’s duration.

Additionally, every participant receives an event shirt and a finisher’s medal at the end of the route to commemorate the bike ride!

We provide return transportation for you and your bike back to Gurnee, Illinois at the end of each day.

Costs & Deadlines

Registration fees and fundraising minimums vary by mileage.

CowaLUNGa 2018 price chart

For more details, see Costs & Deadlines.

Funds raised support RHA’s programs:

 

Ready to ride CowaLUNGa 2018? Start your journey!

The Century Ride at CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2018

CowaLUNGa 2018 takes place August 4-6, 2018.

Proving your endurance by riding the 100-mile “century” is one of the ultimate badges of honor for cyclists. But at CowaLUNGa, biking 100 miles means even more:

All fees and fundraising support RHA’s work toward healthy lungs and clean air for all!

This is RHA’s 22nd year hosting the CowaLUNGa bike ride, so you can rely on our expertise from years of experience to give you a world-class event.

Interested in riding a century at CowaLUNGa? Here’s what you need to know!

BENEFITS

Century Riders receive all normal benefits of the 2 or 3 Day Rides, including:

  • Fully supported route (bike, SAG, medical) from start line in Gurnee to finish line in Wisconsin
  • Event shirt
  • Finisher’s medal
  • Start line snacks, morning and afternoon rest stops with food and beverages, dinners and breakfasts
  • Overnight accommodations (choose indoor or outdoor)
  • Free parking at Gurnee Mills
  • Bus ride and transportation for your bike back to Gurnee

REGISTRATION FEES AND FUNDRAISING

CowaLUNGa’s Century Ride takes place on Day 2, so you must be registered for the 2 or 3 Day Ride to be able to ride the Century. Learn more about each day of the bike tour. All 2 or 3 Day registration fees and fundraising minimums apply.

CowaLUNGa 2018 Registration Fees and Fundraising Minimums

*Lung Health Champions: Commit to raising a minimum of $1,000 and receive numerous coveted benefits including a custom commemorative CowaLUNGa Voler cycling jersey and an invitation to RHA’s Annual Recognition Night. Learn more about becoming a Lung Health Champion. Note: First-Time Riders can receive the registration discount and also be Lung Health Champions!

**First-Time Rider Discount: To qualify for this discount, you must be a new rider and have never ridden the CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour before. Discount only applies to registration fees. Fundraising is required. Offer expires June 15. To get a coupon code for this discount, email us or call (312) 628-0210.

LOGISTICS

On Day 2, the route opens at 6:45 a.m. All riders, including non-Century riders, will ride approximately 65 miles through areas of Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest with rest stops in the town of Lyons, Wisconsin and at the LaGrange General Store in Whitewater, Wisconsin.

If you want to ride the Century, you’ll sign up and receive the route instructions at the second rest stop at LaGrange General Store, where the additional 35-mile loop starts and ends.

Entrance to the Century Loop opens at 11 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m., so plan your riding day accordingly. Cue sheets will not be given out after 2 p.m. No exceptions. RHA reserves the right to cancel the Century Ride at any time to ensure the safety of our riders.

Century riders must complete the loop by 4:30 p.m. to ensure coverage by the CowaLUNGa support teams.

Lunch is on your own and you’ll ride onto the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s campus to end the day. Check-in is required at each day’s finish line. Please note that CowaLUNGa riders are required to wear helmets at all times on their bikes. NO HELMET, NO RIDE.

“When looking for a multi-day ride, important things for me are good SAG support while on the road, indoor plumbing at rest stops, sleeping indoors, and supporting a worthwhile cause. CowaLUNGa has all of those things and more. From the moment I check in on the morning of Day One until I load the bus for the ride home, the RHA team takes care of my needs, so all I need to worry about is riding.”

Kristen W., Veteran Cyclist (Kenosha, WI)

Ready to ride? Start your journey! 

 

Still have questions? Email us or call (312) 628-0210.

Make Every Mile Count with Lung Power Team

Planning to run a race this year? Whether it’s your first triathlon or your 100th 5K, dedicate your efforts to healthy lungs and clean air as a member of Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team.

Joining is easy and the option to choose your own race gives you flexibility to find an athletic pursuit that matches your schedule and skill level.

Team benefits include complimentary training resources, fundraising support, and all the motivation you need to reach the finish line.

“Training is more meaningful knowing that I’m making a difference for people living with lung disease. The support I’ve received from RHA has been terrific,” shares Christopher N. of Chicago, who has run with the Lung Power Team since 2013.

Asthma, COPD, lung cancer and other lung diseases may have touched you personally and clean air affects us all. Make every stride more meaningful in the race of your choice by raising funds for education, research and policy changes that help people live better.

If you’d like to join, contact Rebecca Weinberg-Doptis for more information.

Tom Earll is Making Memories with Every Breath

When Tom Earll’s daughter, Katy, planned her wedding, she easily chose the venue and the dress. But one heartbreaking fact loomed over it all: Katy didn’t know if her father would live long enough to walk her down the aisle.

“It was very possible that I was going to die and not be at her wedding,” Tom explains. “I kept looking forward to that day. Even at the very end when I was very sick and could hardly get off the couch.”

At that point, Tom had been suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis for 10 years. He was on the transplant list, but his doctor said he had a maximum of two months to live.

As he lay in bed those last two months with his wife caring for him, Tom found strength in his daughter’s future. He fought to be present and create a memory he and his family could cherish.

Man holding baby

Tom with his grandson.

Years before, when he was first diagnosed, Tom only had to wear oxygen while exercising, but by the time of his daughter’s engagement he had to carry an oxygen concentrator and tanks of oxygen wherever he went. As his conditioned worsened, he needed the concentrator even while sleeping.

Tom’s path to this point was not direct: a misdiagnosis of asthma delayed his treatment for years. It wasn’t until Tom sought the help of pulmonologists at Loyola Medicine that he finally arrived at the correct diagnosis and was put on the transplant list.

You have to be “sick to enough to qualify, but healthy enough to qualify,” Tom says, acknowledging the difficult decisions hospitals must make when deciding who receives a transplant and who doesn’t.
Months passed while Tom waited. Katy’s wedding ticked closer.

Then one night, while Tom rested in bed with his breathing labored, the phone rang. The hospital had a pair of lungs for him. On December 8, 2015 he received a bilateral lung transplant.

On the third morning after his transplant, Tom could see downtown Chicago from his bed. The sun rose, reflecting off the glass buildings. “I sat up and took a deep breath. I got hit with this wave of emotion, and I burst into tears because I realized that this was my new normal,” Tom recalls.

man walks daughter down the aisle

Tom walks Katy down the aisle.

In the end, Tom was able to walk his daughter down the aisle, making a dream come true for them both. “I danced like a fool at her wedding,” he laughs, “and there was always a chair close by so I could sit down and rest.” Because while Tom emphasizes the joy of making new memories without difficulty breathing, his road to recovery is long and some things in his life will never be the same.

“I grew up swimming and boating, and I was in, on or under the water most of my life. I can’t do that anymore. Some days you struggle to win the mental battle. But I always wanted to play the guitar, so instead, I do that now.”

In addition to learning guitar, Tom has taken up a few athletic challenges. Just nine months after his transplant surgery he ran his first 5K, with friends and family cheering from the sidelines in custom t-shirts that said “Tom’s Second Wind.”

This year, he saw that Loyola had created a Hustle Chicago team to benefit the lung disease research supported by the Respiratory Health Association.

That’s how Tom wound up joining “Loyola’s Lung Angels” and practicing for the climb in his local municipal parking garage, which has 4 floors of stairs. He goes up and down 20 times to reach 1600 steps.

Of the race and the rest of his recovery, he says, “I’m going to keep going at a steady pace.”

To support Tom’s efforts, visit his fundraising page.

The Night that Fuels Nicole’s Fight Against Asthma

Nicole Brown was at home when her one-year-old baby Nicholas began to cry. As hours passed and nothing soothed him, Nicole knew that it was time to call the doctor.

A team of two doctors and a nurse quickly realized that Nicholas was struggling to breathe. They began breathing treatments, checked his pulse, and recommended transferring him to a nearby hospital.

After a final breathing treatment, Nicole left for the hospital. “We just made it,” she describes. There, the doctors and nurses uncovered what Nicholas had been trying to tell them – his left lung had collapsed.

Doctors observed him around the clock, unsure what caused the collapse. The possibility of infectious disease meant Nicole wasn’t able to hug or physically comfort her son.

Woman holding baby in hospital with mask and gown on

Nicole holding Nicholas in the PICU

The PICU moved Nicholas to an isolated room to reduce the threat posed by possible infections. The doctors, nurses and Nicole all wore paper gowns and masks whenever they stepped inside.

With protective garments in place, Nicole was allowed to hold Nicholas again – but only while doctors worked to remove the mucus accumulating in his lungs. Nicholas tried to scream, but couldn’t due to his weak breath. Tears streamed down his face as Nicole held him.

“It was awful. I didn’t want him to hurt, but I knew that I needed to keep him still for the doctors to help him,” recalls Nicole.

Tests soon revealed that Nicholas was not infectious and had responded well to the breathing treatments and the suction from his lungs. The doctors were surprised by how quickly Nicholas’ condition improved and finally arrived at his true diagnosis – asthma, a chronic condition that would have to be managed for the rest of his life.

That was eight years ago. Today Nicole, an engineer at Exelon, is preparing to climb her fifth Hustle Chicago and training five times a week. Her son’s asthma and mother’s COPD are at the forefront of her mind.

Boy smiling in a school photo

Nick in a recent school photo

“Nicholas’ asthma has definitely changed my perspective. I grew up with my parents smoking and I thought it was fine.  I also didn’t know that there are different inhalers– maintenance, preventative and rescue.” Nicholas now takes his maintenance inhaler twice a day. His rescue inhaler is there for him when he needs it.

Nicole hopes to have her son waiting for her at the top of the Hancock.

“I think about the people I’m doing it for, knowing that they can’t physically do what I’m doing. That helps push me more.”

Join us and support those affected by asthma and COPD. Donate to Nicole’s climb here.