Stephen Marsalese runs up the stairs of the Bennington Battle Monument on Saturday morning during the American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb
Stephen Marsalese runs up the stairs of the Bennington Battle Monument on Saturday morning during the American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb event. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/photos.benningtonbanner.com)

BENNINGTON -- The New England chapter of the American Lung Association raised $27,000 at its annual "Fight for Air Climb" at the Bennington Battle Monument on Saturday.

The climb works similarly to most road race fundraisers. Money pledged by climbers and groups goes to support local initiatives to help people quit smoking, funding research, improving indoor and outdoor air quality, and education about asthma.

Roughly 120 climbers made their way up the 417 steps of the monument to the observation deck, with some runners making the climb in under two minutes and walkers taking up to 10 minutes. In addition to the fund-raising climbers, two dozen local firemen made their way up the monument for the event.

The climb is the only event during the year that the monument stairs are open. Otherwise, an elevator takes people to the observation deck.

Four local women were honored at the event for their contributions to lung health. One of those women, Mount Anthony Union High School sophomore Jordyn Upright, made the climb in two minutes and 52 seconds. The young woman with asthma said it was her goal to make it up in under three minutes.

Upright was selected as an honoree because despite having asthma, she is a cheerleader and plays softball at MAU.

"I'm one of those people who always has a goal and try to make it. I don't let anything hold me back," Upright said. "Cheerleading can be tough with asthma because you have three minutes to just put it all out there without stopping. We won state last year. It's a great feeling when you do win, and I like that feeling."

Also among the honorees was the successful survivor of a lung transplant who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, which was most likely caused by pollutants from her former workplace. Kathy Carrier of Bennington has spoken out about her challenges to increase awareness about environmental hazards and raising funds.

"It was my doctors in Boston that really pushed me into (getting the transplant)," Carrier said. "The recipient list is long. People really need to get online and sign up for organ donation. You never know what turns life will take. It's a huge thing for any of us living with diseases to get a transplant when it's needed."

Judy Brownell and Gwen Hannan were the other two women honored this year at the climb. Read about their stories at http://bit.ly/1kbbzkb.

Also recognized at the climb was Vermont Rep. Patti Komline, R-Bennington-Rutland-1, for introducing House Bill 217, which bans smoking in vehicles in the presence of children under 8 years old as of July 1.

"I was pleased with the efforts we've had, and the success in Montpelier with the help of Rebecca Ryan: Not only have we made it illegal to smoke in cars with young children, but we've also passed landmark legislation about (packaging requirements) on e-cigarettes," Komline said.

Vermont is the first state to change the packaging requirements on electronic cigarettes to reduce the availability to minors. The state has recently produced a study report about the harmful effects of these tobacco alternatives, available at http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/tobacco/documents/Ecigarette_factsheet.pdf.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg.