Lauren’s Helping Kids Breathe Easier

In April 2018, 9–year-old Lauren Wilson shook hands with Senator Daniel Biss and sat down to educate him about a new law being considered in the Illinois legislature – Stock Emergency Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools. The legislation allows schools across the state to keep a supply of albuterol on hand to deal with asthma episodes and other respiratory emergencies, similar to how they keep an EpiPen on hand for allergy emergencies. Advocates like Lauren helped get the law passed in May 2018– now, they’re trying to make sure that it gets implemented. For her first persuasive writing assignment in 3rd grade, she wrote a 3-page paper on why they need to use the new law to stock albuterol in her school.

Father, daughter and senator pose during lung health advocacy meeting.

Lauren and father Jeremy meet with Senator Biss

“Why does it take so long?” That’s Lauren’s newest question for Illinois State legislators. For kids living with asthma who rely on medications like albuterol, waiting for the law to take effect impacts their ability to live well. Lauren carries her inhaler in her backpack and keeps a backup with the school nurse, but those medications are specific to Lauren. The new law lets schools keep ‘undesignated’ medication – meaning it is not prescribed to a specific person – that can be administered to anyone in respiratory distress. This is an important fail-safe in case someone runs out of medication, forgets or loses an inhaler or, as often happens, experiences breathing difficulty for the first time and hasn’t been diagnosed yet. Lauren wants her school to be as prepared for an asthma episode as she is. Lauren has been an advocate for those living with asthma for most of her life, which stems from her own experience with respiratory issues. Lauren was in and out of the hospital and emergency care as an infant. “It was the scariest experience of my life,” her father, Jeremy remembers. “When they tell you that you should say goodbye to your child after hearing she has gone into respiratory failure.”

After her respiratory failure at six months old, doctors diagnosed Lauren with reactive airway because she was too young at the time for a full asthma diagnosis. She began treatment at that time. At four years old, her pulmonologist made the expected diagnosis of asthma. Throughout this journey, Lauren’s mom, Stephanie, began researching ways the entire family could be proactive in Lauren’s care. They worked closely with a pediatrician to develop an asthma action plan and watched Lauren’s symptoms to identify her triggers. Stephanie’s research also led her to Respiratory Health Association, and the entire family got involved. Lauren’s last hospitalization came last fall. Her asthma has been mostly under control since, but it always requires careful monitoring. In the meantime, Lauren continues to participate in sports and spend time with her friends. “I feel pretty fine doing sports,” Lauren says. “I usually don’t have triggers with sports, mostly just allergies and colds.”

Stephanie reminds her, “If you really pushed, we’d give you 2 pumps of albuterol for stair climbs.” Lauren is very proud of the collection of medals she has from sports and charity events. “I keep them all around the house,” she says mischievously. “We’ll find them everywhere,” Stephanie confirms. In October 2018 RHA presented her an award for her asthma advocacy efforts. The Next Generation Advocate awards are given to young people who stand up for a future free of lung disease and to protect our clean air. Lauren keeps that award in the front of the house, where everyone can see it.

Youth advocate and policy director pose with award for efforts to support lung health

Lauren and Matt Maloney, RHA Directory, Health Policy during the 2018 awards ceremony

She also has medals for Hustle Chicago, RHA’s stair climb, and the CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour, which she participated in as an 18-mile rider the first weekend in August. But there are challenges that come with asthma, summer heat, and physical activity. “We didn’t go out and ride today,” Jeremy mentions. “But she did 9 miles a few days ago.” Before July’s heat wave hit the Midwest, Lauren rode a couple times a week. But as the weather got hotter, the air quality worsened and became unhealthy for people with lung disease. Now that it’s cooled down and air quality has improved, she’s back to good riding conditions. It’s just another thing her parents monitor to help keep her asthma under control.

Jeremy and Stephanie joined Lauren for their 5th year of riding CowaLUNGa. She rode 18 miles on the back of Jeremy’s bike and plans to ride the 18 miles on her own bike next year. With plenty of time to train, she’s ready for the challenge. Lauren proudly describes her bike as blue and silver. “I just learned how to shift gears on it. I went on my first hill recently, and down. That’ll make the hill on the first day not as bad,” she says.

Another milestone she’s ready for?

“She wants that big 20 year trophy,” Jeremy says of the celebratory trophies RHA gives five, 10, 15 and 20 year riders. “And I believe she’ll get it.”

Besides asking her fellow riders to join her in supporting RHA’s advocacy efforts, she offers this advice: “Get out and ride. Wear comfy clothes: bike shorts, gloves and a helmet.” To join The Wilsons in their efforts to fund asthma research, advocacy and education, support their fundraising here.

23rd Annual CowaLUNGa Takes Place August 3-5, 2019

Registration for CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2019 is now open! Escape the noise of the city for a weekend and explore the scenic Midwest as you bike through northern Illinois into southern Wisconsin.

About CowaLUNGa 2019 Charity Bike Tour

Along the way, you’ll experience an unparalleled level of camaraderie and support from other cyclists and Respiratory Health Association, while helping RHA achieve its vision of healthy lungs and clean air for all.

This is RHA’s 23rd year hosting the CowaLUNGa bike ride, so you can rely on our expertise from years of experience to give you a world-class event.

Choose to ride 18 or 65 miles in one day, 130 miles in two days or 190 miles over three days.

What’s Included When you Register?

All routes are one-way with free return transportation back to the start line and include full SAG and medical support; two daily rest stops; breakfast and dinner. Free overnight parking is available onsite at Gurnee Mills for the event’s duration.

Two and three-day riders (130 & 190 mile routes) also receive comfortable, indoor housing accommodations.

Saturday night is spent at the newly-remodeled Conference Point Center (CPC) on the beautiful shores of Lake Geneva. CPC has 5 stars on Facebook and 4.5 stars on Google reviews!

Sunset over Lake Geneva from Conference Point Center in William's Bay Wisconsin A bedroom at Conference Point Center - Night one of Cowalunga 2019 Living area of a cabin at Conference Point Center Conference Point Center grounds during CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour

Sunday night is CowaLUNGa’s college throw back night at University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Prop those dorm doors open and relive those carefree campus days, complete with games and entertainment in the UWW Student Center.

Dorms at University of Wisconsin WhitewaterUniversity of Wisconsin Whitewater Campus FountainCowaLUNGa entertainment at UWW Student Center

Read more about housing, logistics and other event details here.

Additionally, every participant receives an event shirt and a finisher’s medal at the end of the route to commemorate the bike ride!

CowaLUNGa 2019 Costs & Deadlines

Registration fees and fundraising minimums vary by mileage. Early bird registration discounts are available until June 15.  First-time riders that select two or three day routes receive 50% off registration. Call 312-628-0200 for more information on or to register with our first-time rider discount.

 

CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2019 Registration fees chart

For more details, see Costs & Deadlines.

Funds raised support RHA’s programs:

 

Still thinking it over? Sign up for CowaLUNGa email updates.

Ready to ride CowaLUNGa 2019? Start your journey!

Alex Simundza isn’t letting asthma slow him down

Alex Simundza isn’t letting asthma slow him down

Alex at CowaLUNGa

Alex at the end of a ride

Despite being diagnosed with asthma at an early age, Alex Simundza always loved playing sports. With the support of his parents and doctors he found ways to manage his asthma and continue playing low-intensity sports like baseball. By keeping his inhaler handy and following his doctor’s instructions, Alex lived an active life.

Then in eighth grade a back injury changed everything. Alex underwent surgery after surgery attempting to repair damage to multiple discs in his lower back, but nothing seemed to work. Finally in high school Alex underwent multiple spinal fusions. It seemed his athletic days were over.

For the next several years Alex found that his asthma worsened. He gained weight and found it difficult to do even basic daily tasks without triggering breathing difficulty. Cardiovascular exercise was the last thing on his mind, but he also knew he couldn’t let his health continue to deteriorate.  After talking with his doctors and conducting extensive research, Alex embarked on a low-intensity exercise plan that combined resistance training and indoor cycling.

Alex’s health gradually improved and by the time he was ready to attend college, he knew he wanted to work in health and fitness. When he found the exercise science major at Western Illinois University, he knew he’d found a career path filled with personal meaning.

Today Alex is a Health Fitness Professional at AbbVie’s Vitality Fitness Center, where he often helps other people with asthma find exercise options that don’t trigger episodes. Though living with asthma is different for everyone, they see that Alex found a way to be active, and he feels that helps him connect with the members living with their own health issues.

“Some people think, ‘you’re a personal trainer and you should be in the best shape of your life.’ But when they see that I’m just like them, they know that they can ask me any question they want.”

Alex at spin class on July 4th

When Alex found cycling, he found a sport that allowed him to be both introspective and competitive. “My dad told me that 100 might be too much for me. He said, ‘you might want to try 50 or 60 miles instead. I said, 100 is good. So my first ride was 100 miles. Pretty good,” he says with a light laugh. Alex feels that cycling and strength training have improved his health and help him manage his asthma. He also makes sure to keep in close contact with his doctor and always has inhaler with him.

Riding his bike also restored the competitive nature that he’d lost during the seven years before his final spinal surgery. Alex describes the joy in being able to train for CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour and give advice to other people trying to improve their overall fitness with cycling. He suggests new riders gain endurance by building a foundation.

“Put your time in. It may seem boring, but spin classes can keep you motivated.” He also suggests watching a movie, which is how he got through long indoor rides at first. Once you start riding outside, find a route that appeals to you. His other piece of advice for long rides? “Always pack the right gear,” including your inhaler if you’re riding with asthma.

Alex will follow other day riders from Gurnee into the quiet waters of Williams Bay, Wisconsin. As the ride path winds into the countryside, his thoughts will likely mirror those he’s had on many cycling tours in the past, “I keep peddling. I listen to the constant whooshing on the pavement and watch the therapeutic rotating of the wheels on the concrete. The constant buzz,” he says, “is like a metronome. It’s really peaceful.”

“I’m excited to be able to ride and support a cause that has affected me almost my entire life.”

To support Alex’s ride at CowaLUNGa and RHA’s asthma programs, visit his fundraising page.

Over 200 Cyclists Ride to Fight Lung Disease at CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 25, 2018
 
Contact: Erica Krutsch
Desk: 312-628-0225 
Cell: 734-262-4527

Over 200 cyclists ride to fight lung disease at CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour

WHAT: Respiratory Health Association’s CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour is an annual cycling event from Lake County, Illinois through southern Wisconsin. Over 200 cyclists of all ages from across Chicagoland will line up at Gurnee Mills to pedal as far as 190 miles in Respiratory Health Association’s 22nd annual CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour. Participants will bike 18 miles, one, two or three days and cross the finish line in Hubertus, Wisc. The event will raise $200,000 for Respiratory Health Association’s lung disease research and programs.

WHY: The tour raises awareness and funds to fight lung diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and to support clean air and other healthy lung initiatives. This year’s event kicks off with special guests Illinois State Senator Terry Link, Lake County Board Member Paul Frank and youth advocates for lung health from the Catalyst Youth Prevention Group of Stevenson High School. Respiratory Health Association will thank participants for the important roles they played in passing Illinois’ new Tobacco 21 legislation, which raises the tobacco purchase age to 21 from 18, a policy proven to reduce teen smoking. The deadline for Gov. Rauner to sign Tobacco 21 into law is August 27.

WHEN: Saturday – Monday, August 4, 5 and 6, 2018. Start line media opportunities begin at 7:00 a.m. Ride begins at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: Start line located in Gurnee Mills Parking Lot H, at the intersection of Interstate 94 and Grand Avenue (IL 132) in Gurnee, Ill. Cyclists will travel through southern Wisconsin Aug. 5 and 6 with stops in Williams Bay, Whitewater, and Hubertus, Wisc.

SCHEDULE FOR PHOTO/VIDEO OPPORTUNITIES:

  • 7:00 a.m. Riders begin arriving in Gurnee Mills Parking Lot H to check in
  • 9:00 a.m. The Charity Bike Tour officially kicks off with Lake County legislators ringing the official start line bell. Riders depart for Wisconsin as a mass start.
  • Media opportunities at other points of the ride can be arranged by contacting Erica Krutsch, RHA Director of Marketing & Communications, at 734-262-4527.

INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES (REQUESTED IN ADVANCE IF POSSIBLE):

  • Hundreds of cyclists, many of whom are personally affected by lung disease
  • Youth advocates for lung health from the Catalyst Youth Prevention Group of Stevenson High School (Lincolnshire, Ill.), representing the youth sector of Stand Strong Coalition
  • Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association
  • Illinois State Senator Terry Link
  • Lake County Board Member Paul Frank

###

Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader since 1906. Today, the association works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air and help people live better through education, research and policy change. For more information, visit www.resphealth.org.

22nd Annual CowaLUNGa Takes Place August 4-6, 2018

Registration for CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2018 is now open! Escape the noise of the city for a weekend and explore the scenic Midwest as you bike through northern Illinois into southern Wisconsin.

About CowaLUNGa 2018

Along the way, you’ll experience an unparalleled level of camaraderie and support from other cyclists and Respiratory Health Association, while helping RHA achieve its vision of healthy lungs and clean air for all.

This is RHA’s 22nd year hosting the CowaLUNGa bike ride, so you can rely on our expertise from years of experience to give you a world-class event.

Choose to ride 18 or 65 miles in one day, 130 miles in two days or 190 miles over three days. Riders who select the 2 or 3 Day options may also opt to do a Century Ride on Day 2.

What’s Included

All routes are one-way with full SAG and medical support and include two daily rest stops, breakfast and dinner. Free overnight parking is available onsite at Gurnee Mills for the event’s duration.

Additionally, every participant receives an event shirt and a finisher’s medal at the end of the route to commemorate the bike ride!

We provide return transportation for you and your bike back to Gurnee, Illinois at the end of each day.

Costs & Deadlines

Registration fees and fundraising minimums vary by mileage.

CowaLUNGa 2018 price chart

For more details, see Costs & Deadlines.

Funds raised support RHA’s programs:

 

Ready to ride CowaLUNGa 2018? Start your journey!

The Century Ride at CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour 2018

CowaLUNGa 2018 takes place August 4-6, 2018.

Proving your endurance by riding the 100-mile “century” is one of the ultimate badges of honor for cyclists. But at CowaLUNGa, biking 100 miles means even more:

All fees and fundraising support RHA’s work toward healthy lungs and clean air for all!

This is RHA’s 22nd year hosting the CowaLUNGa bike ride, so you can rely on our expertise from years of experience to give you a world-class event.

Interested in riding a century at CowaLUNGa? Here’s what you need to know!

BENEFITS

Century Riders receive all normal benefits of the 2 or 3 Day Rides, including:

  • Fully supported route (bike, SAG, medical) from start line in Gurnee to finish line in Wisconsin
  • Event shirt
  • Finisher’s medal
  • Start line snacks, morning and afternoon rest stops with food and beverages, dinners and breakfasts
  • Overnight accommodations (choose indoor or outdoor)
  • Free parking at Gurnee Mills
  • Bus ride and transportation for your bike back to Gurnee

REGISTRATION FEES AND FUNDRAISING

CowaLUNGa’s Century Ride takes place on Day 2, so you must be registered for the 2 or 3 Day Ride to be able to ride the Century. Learn more about each day of the bike tour. All 2 or 3 Day registration fees and fundraising minimums apply.

CowaLUNGa 2018 Registration Fees and Fundraising Minimums

*Lung Health Champions: Commit to raising a minimum of $1,000 and receive numerous coveted benefits including a custom commemorative CowaLUNGa Voler cycling jersey and an invitation to RHA’s Annual Recognition Night. Learn more about becoming a Lung Health Champion. Note: First-Time Riders can receive the registration discount and also be Lung Health Champions!

**First-Time Rider Discount: To qualify for this discount, you must be a new rider and have never ridden the CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour before. Discount only applies to registration fees. Fundraising is required. Offer expires June 15. To get a coupon code for this discount, email us or call (312) 628-0210.

LOGISTICS

On Day 2, the route opens at 6:45 a.m. All riders, including non-Century riders, will ride approximately 65 miles through areas of Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest with rest stops in the town of Lyons, Wisconsin and at the LaGrange General Store in Whitewater, Wisconsin.

If you want to ride the Century, you’ll sign up and receive the route instructions at the second rest stop at LaGrange General Store, where the additional 35-mile loop starts and ends.

Entrance to the Century Loop opens at 11 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m., so plan your riding day accordingly. Cue sheets will not be given out after 2 p.m. No exceptions. RHA reserves the right to cancel the Century Ride at any time to ensure the safety of our riders.

Century riders must complete the loop by 4:30 p.m. to ensure coverage by the CowaLUNGa support teams.

Lunch is on your own and you’ll ride onto the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s campus to end the day. Check-in is required at each day’s finish line. Please note that CowaLUNGa riders are required to wear helmets at all times on their bikes. NO HELMET, NO RIDE.

“When looking for a multi-day ride, important things for me are good SAG support while on the road, indoor plumbing at rest stops, sleeping indoors, and supporting a worthwhile cause. CowaLUNGa has all of those things and more. From the moment I check in on the morning of Day One until I load the bus for the ride home, the RHA team takes care of my needs, so all I need to worry about is riding.”

Kristen W., Veteran Cyclist (Kenosha, WI)

Ready to ride? Start your journey! 

 

Still have questions? Email us or call (312) 628-0210.