By Andrea Alvarez

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) – Each year millions of people are impacted by lung disease, hitting home for many families. The American Lung Association is raising awareness and funding to help fight this deadly disease.

Supporting those who are fighting for every breath, the Fight For Air Climb in Tampa highlights healthy lungs and clean air by taking the stairs at some of our country’s most iconic venues. This week, they’re hitting Tampa Bay.

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“I have friends that have died. I have friends that are battling cancer currently, so.. I’ve lost my father,” explained Melissa Lallas, a local participant.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S. So, 200 teams are climbing for air to raise funds for those impacted by the deadly disease.

“We work and try to do our best to allow an outlet for those that maybe are suffering and want to tell the story of their loved ones,” said Steven Riddle, Executive Director for the American Lung Association, Gulf Coast. “We actually allow them to kind of do a shout out to their family members for their support. It’s our 17th year for our Fight for Air Climb. It’s our largest fundraiser here in the community.”

In a 1,400 stair climb, families, first responders and teams will climb Raymond James Stadium this Friday for the second year to support those affected.

“We, roughly, have about 600 folks join us for the climb, ages 4 to 84,” said Riddle.

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“It was my first time doing it in this stadium ever and I did two rounds with my friend Jen over here. Both rounds went great,” said Marisa Barton, a local Firefighter and participant.  “I’ve climbed the Bank of America tower quite a few times, so I’ve been training over there too. I think all the training over there helped today go smoothly also.”

Money raised will fund the lung association’s efforts to end lung cancer and lung disease and the Covid-19 action initiative – an effort to address Covid-19 and future respiratory virus pandemics.

“The problem is that additional layer that’s added to folks with asthma, COPD, lung cancer, emphysema, even pneumonia,” said Riddle. “Ninety cents out of every dollar donated goes into our programs and services that impact our local community.”

“I just really love the idea of supporting a great charity and standing behind it. This Tampa run will be my third and it definitely will not be my last,” added Lallas who is also participating.

That event is scheduled from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. on Friday. To sign up, visit ClimbTampa.org.

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