COPD Foundation Celebrates Nick Jones Through Breathe STRONG Rally
The world lost a steadfast advocate and a warm-hearted man in the passing of Nick Jones of The Villages, Florida in October of last year. Nick was a trailblazer in the COPD field and he made his mark on the community as the president and co-founder of The Villages “Airheads” - the first COPD support group in his area. The innovative group became the model for other Airheads chapters across the country. Along with his wife Jan, he taught breathing and exercise classes through the Village’s recreational department and “Living Well with COPD” at the Lifelong Learning College. Those who knew Nick realized he spent little time dwelling on things he could not change, and instead devoted his efforts to staying positive and helping others.
Nick described the impetus to form the Airheads in a limerick:
“Born in Maine, in a feather-tic bed,
He grew up to be short (under-fed)
And when the oxygen flows
Up the hose in his nose
He turns into a virtual airhead.”
His contribution provided individuals living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with a forum to learn about their medical issues, exchange ideas, strengthen minds and bodies through exercise, advise young people of the dangers of using tobacco, and make the general public aware of COPD. Among many of the gifts the group provided was the Annual Airheads Scholarship for outstanding high school students to attend college. Nick Jones proved that change was possible with the right attitude, and planted seeds of hope and inspiration- not only to his peers in The Villages Airheads but to the youth in his community as well.
On February 17, 2016, the Villages Airheads came together to honor the beloved founder of their group. The Nick Jones Breathe STRONG Rally commemorated Nick and celebrated his life, passions, and accomplishments. Cheerleaders, speakers, and entertainers spent the day expressing their gratitude to a man who not only helped change their attitude about living well with COPD, but their outlook on life. The education and guidance from The Village Airheads provided the support and encouragement for many individuals to seek early diagnosis and receive proper treatment of the disease.
“It’s difficult to live up to his legacy of optimism, perseverance, and community service,” said Juan Albino, a pulmonolgist at The Villages Regional Medical Center. “He touched many of those who knew him, and many of my patients said that he was the greatest man they had ever met.”
Nick’s wife, Jan, was moved by the love and support the community expressed during the Nick Jones Breathe STRONG Rally. She along with the Airheads and COPD Foundation hope to make the rally an annual event, both in The Villages and across the nation
“[Nick’s] vision was to bring the COPD community together and to bring his fellow Villagers together to celebrate life,” said Kevin Moran, associate executive director and chief development officer at the COPD Foundation. “This is an awareness program. It’s about letting everyone know that we all have a job, and our job is to tell the COPD story and to rally support around COPD. We need to have a voice, and together that voice is going to be really loud and command attention.”
Before Nick’s passing in October, Jan told Nick that the Airheads and COPD Foundation named the Breathe STRONG Rally after him. She told the rally attendees that he gave her a huge smiled when he learned about it.
“Nick would be so delighted,” said Jan in an emotional moment. “It was his fondest wish that all of his friends would continue the work that was so important to him.”