COPD Foundation Recognizes 2016 Honorees at Annual Air Affair Event in New York City

December 09, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. - December 9, 2016 - The COPD Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to curing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hosted its 2016 annual Air Affair Benefit, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Dr. Byron Thomashow chaired the event as the Foundation paid tribute to a special group of individuals and organizations who were recognized for their contributions to the COPD community over the past year.

The gala evening featured country music artist Billy Dawson, famous for his songs Lance Corporal Austin and Whatever Happens. There was a special performance from Emmy Rose Russel the granddaughter of country icon Loretta Lynn. Emmy represented the Lynn family in memory of her aunt and Loretta’s daughter Betty Sue Lynn who passed away from COPD.

The COPD Foundation was pleased to announce the 2016 Air Affair Benefit awardees for their commitment to COPD awareness and the advancement of a COPD cure. Their advocacy, research, outreach, and care-delivery efforts have helped to build a broad understanding of the disease and support the Foundation improving lives for individuals with the disease. John W. Walsh, co-founder of the COPD Foundation, received the highest honor for his achievements in the COPD space.

“John has made monumental contributions to the pulmonary and health care field and his accomplishments over the years have been vast. John's entrepreneurial spirit and quiet charisma has forged the way to many innovations. The COPD Foundation is the only non-profit in the United States solely dedicated to serving the COPD community - that can be directly attributed to John’s influence,” said Craig Kephart, CEO of the COPD Foundation.

Byron Thomashow, COPD Foundation Board of Directors Chairman added, “We all know John has been the driving force for change and the patients' voice over the past 2 decades. His incredible vision has improved the lives of countless individuals with COPD and Alpha-1, their families and their healthcare team.”

The 2016 Honorees were:

  • Visionary Award: John W. Walsh, COPD Foundation co-founder. A pioneer in the COPD field, John formed the COPD Foundation in 2004. The Foundation’s strides in research, advocacy and public policy, community outreach, and care delivery can be attributed to John’s vision to improve health, promote worldwide detection, and find a cure for COPD.
  • Ambassador Award: Billy Dawson, Country Music Artist. Billy Dawson is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, entertainer, author and motivational speaker. The National Ambassador of Harmonicas for Health, Billy works closely with the Harmonicas for Health Murfreesboro, TN group, and travels the country promoting the program.
  • Champion for COPD Award: Bill Mayne, Country Music Broadcasters. Bill Mayne is a country music and broadcast leader. It was Bill’s enthusiasm and drive about Harmonicas for Health that convinced the Academy of Country Music/Lifting Lives to fund the startup of 25 programs nationwide.
  • COPD Innovation Award: Academy of Country Music/Lifting Lives. ACM Lifting Lives® is the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music dedicated to improving lives through the power of music. Thanks to the support of ACM/Lifting Lives, the COPD Foundation launched Harmonicas for Health program in January of 2016. To date, the Foundation has been able to impact the lives of some 750 people living with COPD.

Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, who succeeded John Walsh as the Foundation's president and is herself a COPD patient, added, "John's many accomplishments emphasize the critical importance of recognizing COPD patients, not as victims, but as determined, highly functional warriors in the battle for greater public and congressional awareness. Thirty million Americans will not be ignored!”

For more information about the Air Affair awardees or if you would like to participate in next year’s event, please contact Kevin Moran at