I walk to work. I walk around my beautiful city. I’m lucky enough to have a Fitbit that tells me I average 14,000-15,000 steps daily. Every day.
And several times every week I’ll pause and look around at the brightness or gloom, at the sun or rain, in the heat or cold – and it will dawn on me how lucky I am – and I’ll think about the gifts I’ve been given – and often I’ll tremble a bit, and my eyes will well up when I think about Kari and her family, about Alex, and about the medical folks and family and friends who helped me through some seriously crazy $hit. And I’ll think about the friends who surround and support me now.
I also think about the organizations that helped me stay on this planet – and help me and others stay here a little more comfortably, and a little longer. The Respiratory Health Association and so many other organizations – this is always one of my opportunities to pay some of that back – or forward.
This climb really means an awful lot to me and I wouldn't miss it for the world. This will be the 16th time I strut my fanny up the steps at the Hancock and this is my team's 15th climb. Kari was #13 on her high school volleyball team – And as they have for about 12 years now – her crazy, lovable teammates, #15, #12, #8, #7, #4 & #2 will be in the stairwells with me – along with several other people Kari grew up with – and 80+ people on my team. And, the kidney #7 gave me is working as awesomely as the lungs #13 gave me.
Can you imagine what it feels like to live with crappy lungs for 39 years – then receive a gift of new lungs from a beautiful Iowa girl and her family. And then to meet that family and be connected with friends and teammates who loved Kari… And have them come out year after year to celebrate Kari with you. And then, when you find yourself in trouble again, Kari’s friend Alex throws you a rope – gives you a kidney – and allows you to climb for many more years! They’re good people, and they help me understand who Kari would have become. And I get to tell people that I’m slowly being rebuilt into a girl from Iowa…
I do this climb to tell people about Kari – and tell people about the goodness of her and her family and friends – and I tell people about Alex and the importance of organ donation. And we also do this for people with crappy lungs, like I had. RHAMC helps people breathe easier – they fund research in lung disease – they help people stop smoking – they help people with lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, COPD, asthma and other respiratory diseases live longer, easier lives. One of RHAMC’s mottos has been, “If you can’t breathe, nothing else matters…” I lived through that motto, and I know too many people living it now. The RHAMC and all of these crazy people who climb with me, and you, help people breathe. We have a very special mission.
Our cause touched Laura and me another way two years ago... My beautiful mom-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer in fall of 2015. Much to my Laura's dismay, moms and I were partners in mischief and finding the wrong foods to eat, particularly doughnuts. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, mom and I had some long chats about options, and the strength it sometimes takes not to fight. She chose to fight. Ironically - the chemo had dramatically shrunk her tumors - it worked. But it was too toxic for the rest of mom and she didn't survive. We do this to fund research so maybe next time - someone else's mom-in-law has a better chance of hanging around and sneaking doughnuts with them.
I know these are not the best of financial times for some of us... If you have a few bucks burning a hole in your pocket, I or anyone on my team would be honored to receive a pledge... But more than anything, I'd love it if you would check out my little website and read about the beautiful girl whose lungs I breathe with, as well as the beautiful girl who gave me her kidney - and the people who surrounded them, and surround me now – people who have allowed me to leap tall buildings...
To see my Hustle page or pledge me: Click Here…
To see my website about Kari, go to www.ClimbingForKari.org
To find someone on my full Kari’s Klimbers team: Click Here…
These climbs always mean so much to me... Being surrounded by people who knew and loved Kari, and by people who know and love me, is something that defies description...and the support I've received from people like you has allowed me to tell so many people about Kari... In the past 16 years, our team has raised well over $300,000.00 - because of people like you... Thank you... I get to do a fair amount of public speaking and, often enough, when I walk into a room, more than one person pulls me aside and says, "You're the one who climbs a hundred stories with your new lungs, and with your donor's friends!!!" And, often enough, they already know Kari's beautiful smile... I am that guy, and I'm proud of that - and more than anything, I want them to know her smile. I will have had her beautiful lungs for almost 18 years when I climb - and her friend's beautiful kidney for 6 years in May - and they have and will allow me to do more than I'd ever dreamed possible...
And finally, and very important to me - please consider organ & tissue donation, register to be a donor on your state' donor registry, and tell your family how you feel. I know a beautiful girl from Iowa who knew how she felt and she told her family - I think about her every single day.