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by Susan Mikula Campbell
For the second year, Town of Niagara resident Wendi J. Koch climbed the stairs of the 38-floor One HSBC Center in Buffalo for her father.
In doing so, she became the fourth top fundraiser in the annual Fight For Air Climb on March 9, sponsored by the American Lung Association of the Northeast. She raised $1,510.
The Veterans Heights resident and her boyfriend Mark Plunkett from Wheatfield headed a team of climbers that raised $4,200, was fourth in team ranking and came in third for company fundraiser (the team participated under the name of World Gym because some of its team members work there and a few others have memberships there).
"I do the event and raise money in memory of my dad, Wayne Koch, who died when he was only 46 years old from lung cancer in 1996," said Koch, a 1990 graduate of Niagara-Wheatfield High School, who now is an English teacher at Lockport's North Park Junior High.
"My father's death has inspired me to do many things, including becoming a teacher, but generally to be a better person over all and attempt make a difference in this world. He was a wonderful man; awesome dad, excellent husband to my mother, and an extremely hard worker," Koch said. "Yes, he was a smoker. He quit smoking four years before he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He also spent 21 years of his life working in a carbon plant in Niagara Falls."
Almost all of her team members made it all the way up the 800 steps. Two team members won medals in their age categories. Koch, still nursing a bruised ankle from last fall, finished the climb in 8:24 minutes.
"Many participants, who are active runners commented that running a 5K or even an 8K in winter is easier than running up those stairs," said Koch, who kept herself calm while climbing by listening to Pink Floyd. "Climbing real stairs takes your breath away so much quicker than any of the cardio machines at the gym."
Another distraction that helped going up were all the volunteers stationed at different floors, cheering the climbers on, she said.
Overall, The Fight for Air Climb at One HSBC Center raised $90,000 for the Lung Association's research, education and advocacy efforts, according to Kathleen O'Neill, communications manager for the American Lung Association of the Northeast. This third annual Fight for Air Climb in Buffalo had 340 climbers participate.
"We definitely are planning to have the event again next year," O'Neill said.
The total time it took Koch's whole team to make the climb was 31 minutes and 55 seconds
Other members of the Koch team and their results included:
Mark Plunkett, co-captain, who raised $100 and finished in 6:12. His daughter Allison raised $100 and finished in 9:15. His son Adam raised $50 and finished in 9:33. Maghan Hartman (Adam's fiancée) raised $5 and finished in 13:56.
Jay White from Sanborn, Mark's son-in-law-raised $100 and finished in 6:28. Sara Whit from Sanborn, Jay's wife and Mark's daughter, was injured and unable to climb but still raised $65.
Linda Nash from Amherst raised $250 and finished in 7:22. Beth Manning from the Town of Niagara raised $245 and finished in 13:36. Jennifer Przybylski from North Tonawanda finished in 8:08. Kurt Amico from Buffalo raised $1,330 and finished in 8:27. Kim Potter from Lockport raised $190 and finished in 10:13. Caitlyn Lunderman from Sanborn raised $45 and finished in 10:47.
Ben Pearson of Niagara Falls raised $50 and finished in 5 minutes even. Melissa Infantino from the Town of Niagara raised $25 and finished in 8:04.
Tammy Skurski from Lewiston raised $100 and finished in 6:53.
Coral Piontkowski from the Niagara Falls/Wheatfield area, was unable to make it to event but raised $35.