Participants raise money for American Lung Association in stair climbing event at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Last updated: April 06. 2013 10:22PM - 4491 Views

PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADERShannon Palmer of Wilkes-Barre dashes up and down the steps at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday during the American Lung Association's 'Fight for Air' event.
PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADERShannon Palmer of Wilkes-Barre dashes up and down the steps at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday during the American Lung Association's 'Fight for Air' event.
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WILKES-BARRE TWP. — More than 100 participants were stepping it up on Saturday afternoon at the Mohegan Sun Arena’s 5th Annual Fight for Air event to raise money for the American Lung Association.

Climbers climbed one entire floor of the main concourse, which meant 1,224 steps.

Donna Ray-Reifler, regional development director, said although the event was competitive, most participants simply wanted to raise money for a worthwhile cause. Many had loved ones who had lost their battle with lung disease.

“The American Lung Association’s funds help the community in a variety ways, including lung cancer research; educational programs in schools, businesses and communities; and asthma camps for children,” said Ray-Reifler, adding the event was expected to raise about $10,000. “We want to insure that people have healthy lungs in the long term.”

The event included a Tribute Wall displaying dozens of photos of friends and family members who had succumbed to lung disease.

Ray and Tara Rotuna travel from Pittsburgh each year to participate in the event in memory of their grandmother who had emphysema.

“We love both the event and the area,” Ray Rotuna said, “and we intend to come back every year.”

Jason Payor, Fort Drum, N.Y., who is in the Army and participated in full uniform, said many fellow members struggled with lung disease, and he was participating as a tribute to their military service.

“Everyone knows someone who has been affected by the lung disease,” Payor said, “and this is a great opportunity to raise money for a great cause.”

Michelle Rader participated with a group of friends who titled themselves “Stairs Crazy.”

“It’s a good, positive way to spend time with friends for a good cause,” said Rader, “and we all have had loved ones who lost their battle to lung disease.”

Donna Hines, Wilkes-Barre Township, said she had participated throughout the history of the event because of a commitment to fighting lung disease.

“Although I have had a challenging year, I was determined to take part,” said Hines. “I encourage others to participate saying, ‘If I can do it, anyone can do it.’ ”

Kellyann Heckman, Moosic, said she was not participating competitively but to increase support and awareness of the importance of lung health.

Forty Fort/Kingston and Plains Township firefighters enthusiastically took part, many of them in full gear.

“Its a natural part of helping others in the community,” firefighter John Kirn said. “That’s what we do.”

Dr. Brian Saracino, an emergency room physician at Geisinger, joined the fightfighters in the event.

“As a doctor, it’s my job to encourage individuals to be as healthy as possible and to help them do that,” said Saracino.

Volunteers from Kohl’s department store and The University of Scranton made the event possible, running the registration desk and assisting participants.

“Something like this just makes me feel good, and I had a lot of fun,” said Laurie Slusser, a Kohl’s employee.

An estimated 35 million Americans have been diagnosed with lung disease. The American Lung Association’s mission is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease.

Those wishing to donate to the organization may send contributions to: The American Lung Association, 71 N. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701 or call (570) 823-2212.

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