For many, it starts with a clunker. Maybe you’ve inherited a car or don’t need an extra vehicle now that the kids have left home. It could be broken down, or maybe it has no chance of passing inspection. Most likely, it’s a headache. The American Lung Association Vehicle Donation Program accepts vehicles in any condition, running or not. It’s quick and easy, and we handle all of the work; from picking up the vehicle to mailing you a receipt for your tax deduction. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call us.
Over the years, we’ve accepted donations from many people whose lives have been impacted by lung disease. From sons and daughters who wanted to keep a family member’s memory alive, to parents who don’t want to witness another asthma episode. From people who suffer from lung disease themselves to everyday people just wanting to make a difference. They’ve found purpose in donating their old vehicles and made a difference in the lives of others who suffer. Could you?
Read about those stories:
Gazing at his silver, 1986 Honda Civic, Mark Leipold had some decisions to make. The car, which had 120,000 miles on it, wasn’t in tiptop shape. In fact, the attorney knew that he’d have to all but rebuild the engine in order to get it to pass an emissions test. Still, it was a difficult decision.
“Even beater cars you develop a personal attachment to,” says Leipold. “It was the first car my wife and I had as a couple, so there was an emotional element to it.”
It didn’t take long before his conscience stepped in. Wanting to make amends for the pollution that the car had already emitted, Leipold, who is a partner at Gould & Ratner in Chicago, did the most logical thing he could think of. He donated it to the American Lung Association.
Leipold grew up in a house of smokers. His mom smoked for more than 50 years and his dad smoked for nearly 70. Back then, he remembers cleaning lots and lots of dirty ashtrays. He remembers the dangers of car trips, when cigarettes flicked from front windows would whoosh their way into back windows. These weren’t pleasant memories. Neither were the health issues that arose from smoking. Ultimately, his father died of cardio myopathy and his mother died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), both of which Leipold relates to cigarette use.
With that in mind, he says he it felt good making a donation to a nonprofit that fights for clean air. Leipold says that living and working in and around Chicago, pollution is a part of life. From his home in Oak Park, he can actually see the diesel soot clinging to nearby buildings. With his three kids to think about (ages 12, 14 and 17), it was important for him to do something positive for the environment. “I felt like I’d taken a dirty car off the market,” he says. “It had a kind of conclusion. It was the period at the end of the sentence.”
Donating the Honda was the first step in Leipold’s involvement with the American Lung Association. Today, he’s a member of Greater Chicago’s Local Leadership Board.
Fighting For Air
In their lives, Ingeborg and Ernst Wolferstetter were a warm-hearted, generous couple, always willing to help someone in need. After both died from lung cancer, their daughter, Kay Wolferstetter, is working hard to carry on their legacy.
To do that, Kay, who is the manager of employment and training programs at Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, has become a regular at clean air rallies, an instructor for smoking cessation classes and a voice for those who no longer have one. “I want, in their honor, to tell my parents’ stories,” she said. “They were both so service-driven and so helpful to other people.”
Ingeborg smoked for about 50 years. She quit in 2002, the same year that she was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. For the next two and a half years, Kay, Ernst and their family did everything they could as Ingeborg underwent different treatments. She passed away at age 72.
After her mom died, Kay wanted to make a difference. She was grateful for the support, information and literature she’d received from the American Lung Association throughout her mom’s battle. Her family been making donations to the ALA for years, but suddenly, that wasn’t enough. So she enrolled in a class on smoking cessation, offered by the Lung Association, and began teaching classes to college students. She shared the story of her mom’s painful struggle, along with stats about smoking. “The evidence is huge that if you can get somebody not to start smoking by the time they’re 18, they’re probably not going to start,” she said.
In January of 2012, Ernst was diagnosed with sarcomatoid mesothelioma. A former steamfitter, he worked with a lot of construction, and about 20 years ago he had traces of asbestos in his lungs because of that work. Unbeknownst to the family, his growing lethargy was a result of the cancer that had spread through his lung and chest. He passed away February 27 at age 84.
Kay vowed to do something in his honor, so she signed up for the American Lung Association Fight for Air Climb. “I did the Fight for Air Climb because it’s the least I could do,” she said. “We have to continue to bring awareness to the table about these issues.” After just three weeks of training and fundraising (her family requested that memorials for Ernst be donated to Kay’s effort), she raised nearly $2,500 and competed in the “ultimate” climb, scaling Milwaukee’s U.S. Bank building four times. The whole way, she thought about her father, and his words of encouragement. “A Wolferstetter can do whatever we set our minds to.”
Today, Kay continues to share her parent’s story. She does it by writing to politicians, and letting them know the extent of the pain and suffering that her whole family experienced, and she does it with her continued support of the American Lung Association. “Lung disease is an a terrible disease," she said. “I’ll have some really awful pictures in my head for the rest of my life. But for both my parents, I’m grateful I was able to be with them when they passed.”
When David Heller was a child, breathing was a struggle. A severe asthmatic, he remembers going to the emergency room at least once a week for breathing treatments. That is, until around 1980, when he used his first inhaler. “I’ve never been back in the hospital since,” says Heller, who is the president and CFO of H Group Benefits in Northbrook, Illinois. “That changed everything for me.”
Heller’s grandmother was also a severe asthmatic, and when he was a child, she would take him along to volunteer at different events sponsored by the American Lung Association. As he grew older, his participation in the events waned, but the memories stuck.
A few years ago, Heller had car troubles. He realized that his old Porsche wasn’t in good enough shape to pass an emissions test. With a baby on the way, and a need for a larger, more reliable car, he decided to donate the vehicle. “It was easier to donate it than to sell it,” he says. He remembered that the American Lung Association offered a vehicle donation program, and made a phone call. That was all it took.
These days, Heller has become heavily involved with the American Lung Association. He sits on the Illinois Leadership Board and regularly participates in fundraising events. In fact, he recently rallied a group from his office to participate in the American Lung Association’s annual Fight for Air walk at McDonald’s Hamburger University in Oak Brook. Together, they raised more than $7,000. “It was effortless,” he says. It was such a great experience that Heller committed to getting a team together to participate in the walk every year. He says it’s his way of supporting an organization that has really made a difference for his family and himself.