This article was written by Jessica Burke
Everyone has something they are passionate about – whether it’s running, baking, gardening, music, fashion, or volunteer work to support a cause. These COPD Foundation community members have found some incredible ways to combine their unique interests with their passion for helping people with chronic lung diseases. Learn about these COPD Foundation advocates and their Do It Yourself (DIY) fundraisers, what they learned, and how you can host a meaningful and successful fundraising event – and have a blast doing it!
Russell Winwood, a COPD Foundation advocate, shared that a stroke followed by a stage 4 COPD diagnosis at the age of 45 led him to make a powerful choice: to take charge of his lung health and live his life as a COPD advocate.
“I decided I didn’t want to just go lay in a corner and let the disease take over my life,” Russell said. “I wanted to still enjoy a quality of life.” That’s when he began participating in Ironman competitions, then marathons. With only 30% lung capacity, Russell has since completed the New York marathon, the Boston marathon, the Gold Coast marathon, and the London marathon – all to encourage living well with COPD, and to honor the millions of people it impacts, while raising money for chronic lung disease research, education, and treatment.
In October 2022, Russell, who is widely known as “The COPD Athlete,” completed the Chicago marathon as a DIY fundraiser for the COPD Foundation. The marathon was a huge physical and logistical undertaking for him, but he emphasized it was worth the effort to support the Foundation, meet other COPD patients, and build awareness and community.
“The COPD Foundation has the biggest network of patients, so it’s a really big and positive community,” he said. “The best part of the event is that I get to meet people through the fundraising, and every race I’ve run I’ve gotten to connect with other patients on the course.” Russell shared that anyone who believes strongly in their cause and commits to relentlessly promoting their fundraiser can have a successful and meaningful event.
Hayley Harrison is a COPD Foundation Captain representing New York state. She’s also a senior in high school. Hayley chose to support the Foundation as a volunteer because she and her family have been greatly impacted by her grandmother’s COPD diagnosis given eight years ago.
“It’s been a huge component of my life as I’ve watched her get treatment as the disease progressed,” Hayley said, “That’s why I wanted to get involved with the Foundation.” Feeling inspired to support and honor her nana’s COPD journey, Hayley acted and built her own DIY fundraiser. She partnered with a Scarsdale, New York clothing boutique (date) to build a “Shop for A Cause” event, where 10% of the day’s purchases would support the COPD Foundation’s mission.
Hayley worked with friends, family, and the boutique to promote the event on social media, and on the day of the event, she provided shoppers with educational materials about living well with COPD.
She also got to experience the day alongside her Nana, who was deeply touched by her granddaughter’s effort. Hayley encourages other DIY fundraisers to provide event participants with unique and compelling incentives to donate, get involved, or educate themselves.
“I think it’s important to do something fun, in combination with giving educational resources and openly encouraging donations” Hayley said. “You have to get people to get excited about your cause.”
Sarah Schmudde is a mom of three and a Respiratory Therapist-in-training from Chicago, Illinois. She was first diagnosed with bronchiectasis and nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease five years ago. Sarah got involved with the Foundation after struggling to find helpful patient information following her NTM lung disease diagnosis. She was also thrilled to find that the Foundation had created World Bronchiectasis Day to raise international awareness of the rare disease.
“I was so sick and there was just nothing out there, so, I was so super excited to find the Foundation and World Bronchiectasis Day .”
To give back to the Foundation, raise awareness, and express her gratitude, Sarah decided to host her first-ever DIY fundraiser for the Foundation. “The Lemonade Stand,” which featured a band, barbecue, and lemonade party for friends and family, coincided with the 2021 World Bronchiectasis Day.
“I have a wide array of people in my life who want to support me and the Foundation,” she said. “This party was the perfect fit for everyone – and my kids always want to set up a lemonade stand.”
During the event, Sarah handed out educational materials on bronchiectasis to her guests. “People want to be good people,” said Sarah, “So you have to give people the opportunity to help others.” Sarah encourages other DIY fundraisers to pursue their unique interests, ask for help, and to “be brave and fearless” when inviting others to participate.
Caroline Gainer, COPD Foundation Captain representing West Virginia state and long-time patient advocate, has been managing her COPD, asthma, and emphysema through medications and exercise since she was diagnosed in 2013.
“I’ve been told twice by doctors that the reason I survived pneumonia, and a collapsed lung was because of my physical condition,” she said. In 2020, she discovered pickleball and fell in love with the fast-growing sport because of how accessible, fun, and healthy it is for people of all ages, physical abilities, and experience levels. Through the sport, she met pickleball friends, Angela Oliviero and Prashanth Muthukrishnan MD, (known as Dr. Muthu), a pulmonary critical care attending physician at West Virginia University Medicine . Together, the trio organized a DIY fundraiser pickleball open play day on World Lung Day weekend September 25 , 2022, to benefit the COPD Foundation.
Caroline, Angela, and Dr. Muthu joined forces to find and reserve a venue, gather sponsors, and spread the word on social media for the day-long event. The fall-themed fundraising event, which required an entry fee per player, featured food, drinks, door prizes and drawings, health resources, including COPD educational materials. The trio, who rallied about 40 tournament participants, advised those who’d like to start their own fundraiser on behalf of the COPD Foundation to ask local businesses, schools, hospitals, and athletes to chip in, be willing to communicate, and diversify their advertisement avenues as much as possible.
“Always find some people that are as gung-ho and passionate as Angela and Dr. Muthu are,” Caroline said. “It’s going to take some work, but it’s going to be worth it.”
Just like these outstanding advocates, you can do something you love as a DIY fundraiser – no matter how unique – and help the COPD Foundation continue its crucial research, education, and advocacy efforts. You have the power to help change the lives of those living with chronic lung disease.
Ready to set up your own DIY fundraiser?