Catch Your Breath: Innovative Fundraising for Lung Health

What would you do for a favorite charity? Would you jump off a building?


Okay, maybe not jump, but rappel down the 27-story theWit Hotel to raise money for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. 

Eighty people did just that on a recent spring weekend. Each raised at least $1,000 for the organization in exchange for the chance to step over the edge and lower themselves down 278 feet.

Jennifer Hawley of Chicago did it, in spite of being very nervous while waiting to get her gear on. “It’s not your normal fund raising event,” she said. But she received a lot of support from friends, families and co-workers and was motivated because she lost several people close to her: a grandmother who died of COPD, her father to lung cancer, and a close friend who died of cystic fibrosis.

It was a perfect fundraiser for architect and rock climber Devan Castellano of Evanston. She rappelled for her son, Nunzio who is 5-years-old and has asthma, but she had the support of her whole family, including a cheering squad of her three children, husband, parents, grandmother and in-laws. “We have a very close and supportive family,” she says. “My son was so excited about the event.  He asked me several times when he could do it too!”

I had the chance to participate as a journalist in the Skyline Plunge. So what was it like? Well, if you’re really scared of heights, this isn’t the fundraiser for you. I’m not interested in skydiving or bungee jumping, but this isn’t nearly as scary a descent. It’s totally safe (double safety ropes), and once you’re strapped in, you feel secure.

Standing on the roof is the worst part, but once you’ve backed off, it’s quite cool. From the theWit, you can see the river and the skyline. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime view of Chicago. The next plunge is September 8, and you can still sign up at

If you’d rather raise money for healthy lungs by using your lungs rather than something that takes your breath away, think about Hustle Up the Hancock or a little less hardcore is the Hike for Lung Health. If even that’s too much breath to expend, First Look For Charity requires nothing more exerting than walking around the Chicago Auto Show with a cocktail in hand.

The Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago has information on all these fundraisers, plus other ways you can get involved in lung health on their website:

Photo by Eric Fry.

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