Human Interest 2016
To view a participant's story, click a name from the list below. Visit our archives to see individual stories from other event years.
2016 EventsSkyline Plunge
Two-time rappeller Staci Greenwald raises funds in honor of family
When Staci Greenwald’s ex-husband, Bob Greenwald, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in January of 2015, she immediately started researching the lung disease, one she had never heard of before. Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease that causes scarring of lung tissue and, as scars thicken, lungs slowly lose their ability to move oxygen into the bloodstream. Bob was only 38 and the exact cause of his pulmonary fibrosis was unknown, as is with many cases.
“Everything I read about survival rates was not good,” Staci said. “The best thing I thought I could do to help was raise money for an organization that could potentially help him.”
Staci signed up for Respiratory Health Association’s Skyline Plunge! Chicago in May of 2015. The event is a 278-feet charity rappel in downtown Chicago that raises funds and awareness for lung disease research and programs. Staci was nervous to rappel, but excited to make an impact on lung disease in honor of Bob, as well as in memory of her father John O’Hearn, who passed away from lung cancer in 2014.
“At first, my family thought I was crazy to do the Plunge,” Staci said. “But everyone was amazingly generous with their contributions, and I think it was in part because rappelling a hotel in downtown Chicago such a unique experience.”
Staci’s mother and friends came out to cheer her on, as well as Bob and their two young sons. After Staci’s first rappel, the thrill-seeker in her wanted to do it again. She signed up for the rappel in May of 2016 and went down the side of a building with a good friend.
“When pulmonary fibrosis came into my life, I was floored by how aggressive it can be and the fact it’s responsible for a lot of fatalities, yet people still don’t know about it,” Staci said. “I wanted to raise funds with my rappel to help support more pulmonary fibrosis research and contribute to making strides in treatments."
Staci raised more than $1,200 with her rappel, contributing to an overall total of $70,000 and counting. Respiratory Health Association continues to accept donations to its Plunge participants to support its lung disease research, advocacy and education programs. To help Respiratory Health Association reach its fundraising goals or for more information, visit lungchicago.org/skyline-plunge.
Chicagoan adventurer rappelling to fight air pollution
Jim DuBay is an adventurer. He’s been dropped off in Alaska by a bush pilot with the goal of surviving in the wilderness and hiking 100 miles in 10 days. He’s cold weather camped and trained for several years to climb the largest mountain peak in North America. But before he can climb that mountain, Jim first has a special rappel in Chicago on May 22.
Jim is participating in Respiratory Health Association’s charity rappel Skyline Plunge! Chicago to raise awareness and funds for clean air programs. Respiratory Health Association has a focus on fighting air pollution, a cause that Jim’s very passionate about on a personal and professional level.
“I’ve always loved outdoor activities and adventures because I enjoy the purity of nature,” Jim said. “I was influenced by my parents and their awareness around pollution and clean air.”
His childhood interest in environmentalism helped lead Jim to his job at Exelon, where he works to maintain and improve existing nuclear power plants. The projects he manages result in improvements to nuclear reactors that increase their safety and reliability and further reduce our carbon footprint.
With Jim’s extensive knowledge of clean energy and love of nature, joining forces with Respiratory Health Association was only natural. Respiratory Health Association promotes healthy lungs and fight lung disease through their advocacy, research and education programs. Improving air quality is imperative to improving the quality of life for people with lung disease and making sure others don’t get it.
Jim first joined Respiratory Health Association in a stair climb fundraiser to help prepare for a mountain climb. Now, his rappel in Skyline Plunge! Chicago will come before another big trip. He’s been cleared to climb Denali, the aforementioned mountain peak 20,310 feet above sea level. He leaves for the month-long trip shortly after his rappel.
Visiting Denali in Alaska and other favorite natural wonders has always been special for Jim, but lately it’s also been a time of reflection.
“I love going back to places I enjoyed as a kid with my folks, but I fear they won’t be there to enjoy with my kids because of poor air quality and pollution,” Jim said.
Support Jim in his fight for clean air by offering words of support or funds at lungchicago.org/jimdubay. To learn more about Respiratory Health Association’s clean air programs, visit http://www.lungchicago.org/advocacy-air-quality/
Restaurateur Dan Rosenthal has a history of taking action in the fight against lung disease. More than 10 years ago, Dan, president at The Rosenthal Group Inc. which includes Trattoria No. 10 and Poag Mahone's, formed a team of restaurateurs and chefs to help promote an ordinance that would ban smoking in all public places in Chicago, including restaurants and bars. Now, 10 years after the passage of Smoke-free Chicago, it seems Dan’s found another monumental way to support lung health in Chicago.
On Sunday, May 22, Dan will step over the edge 278 feet above the intersection of State and Lake to rappel theWit Hotel as a part of Skyline Plunge! Chicago. The rappel fundraiser is held by Respiratory Health Association, the same organization Dan partnered with years ago to ensure the passage of a smoke-free ordinance.
“When I got involved with Smoke-free Chicago, I became aware how important it is to promote lung health programs and initiatives like those Respiratory Health Association supports,” Dan said. “I noticed how lung disease can affect so many people. One of our bartenders suffered from emphysema and she’d go home in tears some nights as a result of secondhand smoke. When Smoke-free Chicago was passed it was a huge win for the restaurant industry and Chicagoans’ health, but we still have a long way to go in promoting tobacco control strategies.”
Dan is using his rappel to not only bring awareness to Respiratory Health Association’s lung disease research and programs, but also to gather the gang who was instrumental in the COUGH (Chefs and Owners United for Good Health) Coalition. On his way down during Skyline Plunge! Chicago, Dan will be cheered on by friendly faces, including Glenn Keefer, a part of the Chicago restaurant industry for more than 35 years, and Ina Pinkney, “Breakfast Queen” and chef/owner of three restaurants for over 22 years in Chicago. All three were huge supporters of Smoke-free Chicago, which led to historic low youth and adult smoking rates in Chicago and ultimately a comprehensive Smoke-free Illinois law.
“Ten years after the passage of Smoke-free Chicago, I have yet to see or speak with a fellow restaurateur who wishes we still had smoking in our establishments,” Dan said. “They see how critical it is to the health of the community and to the health of the staff. It’s been instrumental in improving Chicagoans’ health.”
To support Dan’s fundraising efforts or give his words of encouragement, visit his fundraising page at lungchicago.org/danrosenthal. To learn more about Respiratory Health Association or Skyline Plunge! Chicago, visit lungchicago.org.
Hustle Up The Hancock
I Never Want to Smoke Again
On Feb. 28, Julie and Brian Wasowicz of New Lenox will climb to the top of one of Chicago’s most iconic buildings with more than 30 of their closest friends and family. Julie is participating in Respiratory Health Association’s stair climb fundraiser Hustle Up the Hancock to raise funds and awareness for lung disease and to honor a special woman, her mother.
Ten years ago, Julie’s mother, Christine Tucker, was suffering from shortness of breath that was impeding on her day-to-day tasks. When Christine visited a doctor about the issue, she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing and shortness of breath due to airflow blockage. Doctors told Christine she needed to make lifestyle changes quickly to protect her health. The most important was to quit smoking, which is the leading cause of COPD.
“Doctors told my mom that she would not get to see her grandchildren grow up if she didn’t make a serious change, to quit smoking” Julie said. “She went home that afternoon, handed my dad her pack of cigarettes and said, ‘I never want to smoke again.”
Since Julie’s mother was diagnosed, her COPD has limited her in various ways. For example, she can’t go outside for any length of time when it’s too hot or too cold because both make it harder for her to breathe. She also has difficulty doing even the simplest of tasks as going up the stairs, walking long distances and yard work at her home, something she has always enjoyed. But for Julie, the most important thing is that her mom is still with her and the family can still celebrate great times together, such as when they all meet on Feb. 28 for the 94-floor stair climb at the John Hancock Center.
“This is my second year climbing Hustle Up the Hancock and our team has grown to 35 people,” Julie said. “My two daughters, Abby & Ali, are climbing with us and our 7 year old son, Raivis, will be with my mom and dad at the top waiting for us. We hope he will be ready next year to join us!"
“We are so thankful to have lots of family and friends who are honoring my mom, even my 78-year-old father wants to participate,” Julie added, laughing.
Other team members include employees at Brian’s trucking company, Triple G Enterprises in Lockport, IL. Team Triple G is joining nearly 4,000 other climbers to raise funds for lung disease, research and programs, such as smoking prevention and COPD education.
“It’s important to me to spread awareness about this event because the funds go toward finding a cure and putting an end to lung disease,” Julie said. “We hope these events help find other ways for people to cope with lung disease and eventually not have to deal with it at all.”
To support Julie in her fundraising efforts or offer her words or encouragement, visit www.lungchicago.org/JulieWasowicz. For more information about Respiratory Health Association or Hustle Up the Hancock, visit lungchicago.org.
Hustle Partcipant Climbs in Memory of Father
In September of 2008, Jen Dockendorf’s father Chuck (“Charlie”) was experiencing pain so excruciating that it sent him to the doctor. After some tests, he and his family were shocked to hear that he had lung cancer and that it had spread to his bones. Doctors advised him that if he got chemotherapy he’d likely live a few years. Without it, he’d be lucky to make it a year. Chuck chose to undergo chemotherapy, but after just one round his health took a turn for the worse. He passed away just three months after his diagnosis.
Jen, who lives in Hoboken, was devastated to lose her father. As an only child, she was very close to him and his extended family. To help keep her father’s memory alive, she returns to her hometown of Shorewood, a Chicago suburb, as often as possible with one standing date every February. In February, Jen, her Uncle Bob and other friends and family participate in Respiratory Health Association’s fundraiser Hustle Up the Hancock. The 94-floor stair climb in Chicago’s iconic John Hancock Observatory raises funds and awareness for Respiratory Health Association’s lung disease research and programs.
“Every year the stair climb is difficult for me because it makes me remember my father and the fact that he’s no longer here, but it’s also an important cause,” Jen said. “With it, I’m personally involved in bringing awareness to lung disease and to help keep other families from going through something similar.”
Jen climbs with the team “Charlie’s Turtles” in memory of her father and aunt Kathy (Turtle) who was passed away three years ago from lung disease. Jen likes that some of the funds raised help support Respiratory Health Association’s smoking prevention and cessation programs.
“Now there’s so much awareness about why cigarettes are bad,” Jen said, “but there’s still so much more that can be done to keep people from ever starting the dangerous habit or to help them quit.”
This is Jen’s third year climbing in Hustle Up the Hancock, an event that challenges her physically and mentally. She says that by the 94th floor her “lungs are screaming,” a sensation not unlike that experienced by people affected by lung disease. With this year’s climb, Jen has committed to raising $2,000 and is almost halfway to her fundraising goal.
To support Jen in honoring her father’s memory, visit her fundraising page at lungchicago.org/jendockendorf