CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - What would motivate hundreds of people to climb all 50 floors (that's 883 steps!) of The Vue, a high-rise apartment in the heart of uptown Charlotte?
Raising money to fund lung cancer research and local programs that support those fighting lung disease.
The Fourth Annual Fight for Air Climb Charlotte is the American Lung Association (ALA) of Charlotte's signature fundraising event. Lung cancer is particularly the most underfunded of all cancers, but kills more Americans each year than breast, prostate and colon cancers – combined!
ALA-Charlotte is working to not only raise awareness, but also critically needed funds.
This morning hundreds raced, climbed or simply walked their way to the top of The Vue. There were people of all ages from 10 to nearly 80! There were a few elite climbers – those who do this for sport – but most were not.
Many were first time climbers like Tora Sherrill and Darryl Adolf. The two were strangers before today, but formed an unlikely friendship on their climb to the top.
Sherrill said she was inspired by Adolf, a 26-year Navy Veteran who suffered a massive heart attack two years ago. The scary wake-up call motivated him to d rop more than 100lbs and take his health more seriously. When Adolf told Sherrill his story, she remembered thinking, "If he can do this climb, so can I."
So the two fell into a tag team rhythm, resting when they needed to and gently pushing the other to keep going. Especially when Sherrill wanted to give up about halfway to the top. "My lungs were burning," she recalled. "I wanted to quit, but I looked at Darryl and knew I couldn't stop until I reached the top."
Once at the 50th floor – climbers took in the spectacular 360 degree views of Uptown before heading down – by elevator – to the eighth floor where they could hang out on the rooftop deck and enjoy food and drink from in-kind sponsors like Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Vida Vida and Which Which.
If you can't breathe, nothing else matters. That's what those living with lung disease or chronic illnesses will tell you. More than 33 million people suffer from lung disease- whether it's asthma, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or lung cancer.
Joy Divine and Angela Lee know that all too well. Both are battling lung cancer and Divine has stage four of the disease. She was diagnosed over the July 4th weekend in 2015 when she went to the doctor because she thought she had pneumonia. Surgery soon revealed the cancer was not only in both lungs, but had also spread to her heart, bones, lymph nodes and brain.
"If it had not spread to my heart, who knows how long I would have not known ," said Divine. "I was just very naïve. Thinking if you have cancer, your body is going to let you know."
She been through five different chemotherapies and currently has chemo every day. Divine is also part of the fastest growing group being diagnosed with lung cancer: non-smokers between the ages of 35-55. She also had no family history of the disease. "As a young woman, I was thinking cervical, breast – but never lung cancer," she said.
But she's a fighter with an indomitable spirit. And that's why she's completed the Fight For Air Climb the past couple of years.
It's also how she met Grazia Walker, a spunky, diminutive woman who joins the octogenarian club in May. That's right – she's nearly 80! The breast cancer survivor cheered people on the first year of the climb but has made her way to the top each of the past three years in support of ALA-Charlotte.
"You can do it," she insists. "You're not too old. It's completely mental!" Her biggest tip: do the climb with a friend or listening to music. Otherwise, Walker said, "it's boring!"
She made it to the top on Saturday morning in just over 16 minutes – the fastest in her age group!
Thanks to so many like Walker, along with teams that include BB&T, Bank of American Merrill-Lynch – this year's Fight For Air Climb raised more than $75,000!