It’s that time again – this is my 11th climb – this is my team’s 10th climb. We’re taking the stairs 94 floors, 1,632 steps, to the top of the John Hancock Center in Chicago for the Respiratory Health Association in the Hustle up the Hancock!!! It’s an awesome adventure – some might think even a little crazy – but I do it to honor and remember a beautiful girl from Iowa named Kari. I breathe with Kari’s lungs. My team is Kari’s Klimbers.
This year I have another reason to continue this goofy stuff – another person to honor… Last May, one of Kari’s friends, neighbors and volleyball teammates gave me one of her kidneys. Kari has given me so many more amazing years to stay with Laura, and my family and friends. Last May, Alex added to those years.
Here is my annual Hustle letter that I sent out this year:
It’s time to take the stairs 94 floors to the top of the John Hancock again!!! Last year was quite special – it was my 10th climb. And, among the 150 people on my Kari’s Klimbers team, there were also more than 30 people with me who Kari knew, and grew up with – including Kari’s Mom & Godmother, and Sister & Cousin…
It’s within the realm of possibility that last year may have been my last climb – I was in kidney failure. After 12 years with Kari’s beautiful lungs, the drugs I take to keep her gift destroyed my kidneys. I would have likely been on dialysis by May, June or July and likely unable to climb in this year. But I’m not. I’m climbing. Because on May 8th, one of Kari’s friends – Alex – gave me one of her kidneys. It seems I'm slowly being rebuilt into a girl from Iowa.
Sunday, February 24th will be my 11th climb, the 10th climb for my team - I've got 120 people climbing with me, including a dozen people Kari grew up with... #15, #12, #8, #7, #4 & #2 will be in the stairwells with me - Kari was a star middle-hitter on her Algona High School volleyball team - she wore #13 - her teammates will be in the stairwells with me (including #7, Alex, the original owner of my new kidney...) They're coming out from Iowa, Minnesota, Kentucky and Illinois to help me honor their friend and my hero... Can you imagine how I feel when I'm surrounded by people who loved Kari? Surrounded by people who Kari loved??? They're good people - and they give me a glimpse of who Kari would have become...
I do this to tell people about Kari, and about her goodness, and about the goodness of organ donation - and we also do this for the Respiratory Health Association... They fund research in lung disease - they help people stop smoking - their work helps everyone breathe cleaner air... They help people breathe easier. I know what it's like to breathe with diseased lungs - and now I know what it's like to breathe with the most beautiful lungs in the world. One of RHAMC's mottos has been, "If you can't breathe, nothing else matters..." I lived through that motto, and know too many people living it now. The RHAMC and all of these people who climb with me help people breathe. We have a very special mission...
I know these are not the best of financial times for many of us... If you have a few bucks burning a hole in your pocket, I or anyone on my team would be honored to receive a pledge... But more than anything, I'd love it if you would check out my little website and read about the beautiful girl whose lungs I breathe with, as well as the beautiful girl who gave me her kidney - and the people who surrounded them, and surround me now - and have allowed me to leap tall buildings...
These climbs have meant so much to me... Being surrounded by people who knew and loved Kari, and by people who know and love me, is something that defies description...and the support I've received from people like you has allowed me to tell so many people about Kari... In the past 11 years, our team has raised well over a quarter million dollars - because of people like you... Thank you... I get to do a fair amount of public speaking and, often enough, when I walk into a room, more than one person pulls me aside and says, "you're the one who climbs a hundred stories with your new lungs, and with your donor's friends!!!" And, often enough, they already know Kari's beautiful smile... I am that guy, and I'm proud of that - and more than anything, I want them to know her smile. I will have had her beautiful lungs for 13 years in April - and her friends beautiful kidney for a year in May - and they have and will allow me to do more than I'd ever dreamed possible...
And finally, and very important to me - please consider organ & tissue donation, register to be a donor on your state' donor registry, and tell your family how you feel. I know a beautiful girl from Iowa who knew how she felt and she told her family - I think about her every single day.
My full Hustle link: