Detroiters climb to support victims with lung disease

Climbers walk up 70 flights in Renaissance Centre

DETROIT - It doesn't take a mountain for the climb of your life. You can join the many dedicated people across our country, who are stepping up for those who can't.

Members of the American Lung Association's Fight for Air Climb say that when they get to the 70th floor of the Renaissance Centre, they're nearly out of breath. It acts as a reminder of what it's like for people living with some form of lung disease every single day. The Fight for Air Climb is about raising funds for research, advocacy for cleaner air, and support for those who want healthy lungs and freedom from smoking.

Step by step, these men and women climb the tallest building in Detroit: the 1,035-stair Renaissance Centre. But they do it for a common cause.

"I lost my identical twin brother 9 years ago," said David Cooney, a double lung recipient. "Three years after he died I was inflicted with the same disease."

Cooney had both lungs replaced and calls his recovery a miracle. Now, he climbs alongside his niece, Michelle, who was only 12 years old when her father died.

"He reminds me of my dad every time I see him," Michelle Cooney said. "I'm glad he survived because I wouldn't be the same person if he wasn't alive."

It's a full-body workout, challenging both climbers' stamina and their lungs.

Firefighters do all 70 flights of stairs while wearing 70 pounds of gear.

"It takes a lot, a lot of firefighters will be feeling it tomorrow, muscle aches," said Sean Vesey of the Farmington Hills Fire Department. "But we're all out here for a good cause."

Local 4's very own Morning Show Director Randy Henry was ready to climb with his family on Sunday morning. One of his Blue Cross Blue Shield partners is climbing for the four relatives she's lost to lung disease.

"I wrote their names (down) so I can think of them as I walk through," Jackie Barker said. "Because this is what it's for."
Since it began eight years ago, the Fight for Air Climb has raised $1.5 million. Organizers say they're well on their way to beating this year's goal of $330,000.

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