Students climb for a cause

Volunteers offering cups of water and shouts of encouragement, paired with memories of loved ones,  motivated participants to climb flight after flight of stairs Saturday in the name of lung cancer awareness.

February is National Cancer Awareness Month, and four SIUC students did their part in promoting cancer prevention at the third annual Fight for Air Climb in Springfield.

The event is a fundraiser put on by the American Lung Association in which participants find sponsors who will donate to the cause if they accomplish their climb. Springfield’s
summit was the 32-story Hilton Hotel.

Emily Berglin, a junior from Lincoln studying criminal justice, said she was inspired to participate in this year’s climb after volunteering at last year’s event.

“After watching the participants last year, I knew I wanted to get a team to do it together this year, and when I asked the other three girls they were quick to jump on board with me,” she said.

Berglin’s team consisted of fellow SIUC students Marlise Wachter, Kelsey Bunner and Bridgette Hyde.

The women received sponsorships from family, friends and members of their hometown communities. Lung cancer awareness is a cause that hit home for each member of the team, as each of them said they have relatives who have suffered from the disease.

Hyde, a senior from Beason studying radiological sciences, said she had an aunt who died of lung cancer, while her grandfather has emphysema and her boyfriend’s father has been fighting lung cancer for six years.

Bunner, a junior from Lincoln studying biological sciences, and Berglin said they both have had grandfathers die of lung cancer.

Wachter, a junior from Lincoln studying radiological sciences, said though she also has relatives who have struggled with various lung diseases, she is encouraged to promote cancer awareness more for the general cause.

“I hate cancer, which is why I chose my major,” she said. “I want to be able to treat cancer. I’m determined to find a cure during my lifetime. If it has to do with cancer awareness, I’m going to do it.”

The team, nicknamed the Struttin’ Salukis, set a goal to raise $1,000 and was able raise even more as each member completed the 530 steps of the climb. Each member also wore a ribbon during the event that listed the names of his or her loved ones and his or her sponsors’ loved ones who had lost their battles with cancer.

Kelsey Dyckman, special event manager of the American Lung Association, said 640 people participated in this year’s event, raising more than $130,000.

“This year’s climb was a total success,” she said. “This event continues to grow. We surpassed our goal of participants and money raised. But mostly we continued to raise more and more lung cancer awareness to people of all ages. Anyone can be affected.”

ALA Development Manager Bianca Walker said all the money raised is used to support cancer prevention programs locally.

The Struttin’ Salukis plan to participate in another Fight for Air Climb March 11 in Chicago.


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About Ben Conrady

Ben Conrady can be reached at or 536-3311 ext. 282.

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