By Makenzie O'Keefe

DENVER (CBS4)– Every year, volunteers sign up to climb 2,000 stairs as part of the “Fight for Air Climb” with the American Lung Association. The event is to raise awareness and donations for lung cancer research, and this year, for the association’s COVID Action Initiative as well.

(credit: Damian Solorzano)

Damian Solorzano has participated in the climb the past two years, but this year, he’s climbing in honor of family members who passed away from COVID-19.

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“My reason has been the same every year, to support patients with lung disease including my father,” Solorzano said. “Unfortunately, he passed near the end of 2020. So this year I am doing it in his memory.”

Solorzano lost his father and his aunt to the virus. He, his wife, daughter and four other family members were fortunate to beat the virus. It’s one of the many things fueling the climb with his team “RT Strong” to raise money to end lung disease and COVID-19.

“Health in general is so important right now and lung health,” he said. “And what the American Lung Association does to promote research especially right now with COVID-19 is beyond important.”

Solorzano also worked directly with COVID-19 patients at Denver Health and St. Joseph’s as a respiratory therapist throughout the pandemic.

“In 20 years of being a respiratory therapist I saw things I’d never seen before, I’d never used before,” he explained. “Intense is the best word I can use without getting too graphic.”

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(credit: Damian Solorzano)

Solorazano said the “Fight For Air Climb” is a great way to spread awareness about lung health and research. The climb itself is challenging and gives participants a feeling of what lung patients go through every day.

“Me climbing 2,000 steps is the equivalent of my dad walking to the front door and the shortness of breath that he felt,” Solorzano said. “So it gives you some awareness yet puts it into a fun type of an event.”

Individuals, families, and teams are all invited to take part in the “Fight For Air Climb” on May 8, at Coors Field. The organization is also offering a “Climb Your Way” option for those who can’t make it to the physical event.

“Moving your body and exercising is healthy and with so much of this pandemic and COVID-19 being heavily influenced by comorbidities like obesity and diabetes, I think it is just important to promote healthy events,” Solorzano said. “And just to support healthcare workers.”

(credit: Damian Solorzano)

Money raised at the event will fund the American Lung Associations’ efforts to end lung cancer and lung disease, as well as support the COVID-19 Action Initiative. That’s a $25 million investment to address COVID-19 and protect against future respiratory virus pandemics.

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It costs $35 to sign up with a $100 fundraising minimum. To sign up visit Fight For Air Climb Denver.

Makenzie O'Keefe