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‘Fight for Air’ Climb raises $250,000 for American Lung Association

By Alex Gaul

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    ST. LOUIS, Missouri (KMOV) — Hundreds climbed stairs Saturday morning to raise money for lung disease and cancer research.

It’s part of the American Lung Association’s ‘Fight for Air climb, held annually. Six hundred participants climbed up 40+ stories and about 900 steps to the top of the Metropolitan Square Building in Downtown St. Louis.

ALA Upper Midwest Region Board Vice Chair Chris Scaglione says the event raised $250,000 this year. ALA organizes dozens of similar events across the country. He calls it a unique way to connect with those with lung disease.

“The whole concept behind it is, when you get to the top, you can feel what it’s like to suffer from lung disease… And to empathize with people who unfortunately have to suffer through that every day.”

Missouri has one of the highest new case rates in the entire country, placing 7th highest with 70.1, according to data from the ALA. Some climbers say they are climbing for a myriad of reasons, including in remembrance of lost family and friends.

Climber Rick Marrs ascended the stairs several times Saturday morning and has been climbing since 2009. He says it’s a great way to improve his own health while also helping others.

“It’s the best cardio you can do,” Marrs said. “I see people in here that have been through rehab hospitals and stuff like that, have had strokes and are still stair-climbing. It’s just a really good exercise if people can do it.”

Lawyer Sophie Zavaglia is an emerging leader in ALA. She says her law firm SWMW Law often assists lung disease patients, making the mission even more important for them.

“We see basically every day how devastating lung disease is, so we’re really honored to partner with the ALA to be here and raise money and awareness for lung disease,” Zavaglia said.

Local firefighters also participated in the climb in their full gear, which added about 100 extra pounds of weight. Central County Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Brad Peters says firefighters can be exposed to dangerous carcinogens when fighting fires.

“Cancer runs very prevalent in the fire service, and we’re surrounded by different chemicals that affect our lungs, but it’s been fun to raise the money.”

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