Meet Your State Advocacy Captains!

State Captains are volunteers with COPD, caregivers, friends and family members or healthcare providers who use their contacts and talents and partner with the COPD Foundation to serve as state and community leaders.

Captains promote the importance of becoming a part of the COPD community. They work to spread COPD awareness in their state and local areas, mentor fellow COPD community members, and participate in online and in-person grassroots advocacy and community building activities focused on health policy issues that are important to those who have COPD. To learn more about becoming a state captain in your area please email statecaptains@copdfoundation.org.


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Sheryl Martinez

Sheryl Martinez Profile Photo Shenandoah, Iowa
sheryl9000@gmail.com

I'm Sheryl and am a COPD Foundation State Captain from Iowa. As a captain I hope to raise awareness and have fundraisers that will help with the prevention of COPD, and more importantly in finding a cure.

My main passion for being a captain is to let people know that stopping smoking, beginning to exercise, and eating healthy will help to give them a longer and more productive life. Also, keeping the most positive attitude possible will definitely help you accomplish those three things. I don't think most patients hear that those things will help their breathing and lives until later. Once they have progressed to that point it's really hard and they just don't have the energy to do them. However, I'm a firm believer that it is never too late to start.

I want you to know that I live with COPD, and spent some time being very sick -even to the point of nearly dying. But by quitting smoking, exercising, and eating healthy I have brought myself back from near death to an active and productive life. My goal is to accomplish important things in order to make the lives of COPD patients as easy as possible.

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Melissa Egts

Melissa Egts Profile Photo Stow, OH
melissa.egts@jmhartfielhealthcare.com

As State Captain, I believe there is no limit to the value of the voice of the COPD patient and that the care the patient receives should not be limited by geography, race, or income. I am most interested in advocacy and education. My goals as an Ohio state captain are to help people with COPD cope with a diagnosis, learn how to care for themselves, and help their loved ones understand the COPD patient's journey and enjoy a full life.

As a State Captain, I aim to be a driver of change within my local, state, and national communities. I am most interested in helping people living with COPD access resources available to them so they can live healthier, fuller lives. I believe raising awareness of COPD by participating in advocacy on the state and national levels is very important. I am always ready to lend a compassionate ear via COPD360social.

My proudest COPD moment was joining the COPD Foundation as Ohio State Captain. It’s the decision to act and move the cause forward that is most inspiring as is the power of the human spirit to persevere, improve, and care about others more than themselves.

My motto is short, sweet, and stolen from my dear husband, David: "You answer to the name you call yourself." Call yourself a volunteer - and you help others. Call yourself active - and you get on the treadmill. Call yourself happy - and you are grateful every day.

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Barry Hoehn

Barry Hoehn Profile Photo Birmingham, Alabama
Barry1hoehn@yahoo.com

I am a COPD Foundation state captain living in Birmingham, Alabama. I decided to become a State Captain so I could help people who have COPD understand that there is so much they can do to take charge of their health and to stay connected with resources they will need to manage their health well.

When I was diagnosed, I knew there were things I was going to have to do to take charge of my health. The first thing was to quit smoking. The day I was diagnosed, I threw my pack of cigarettes away and never smoked another one. I also learned the importance of exercise. I was able to develop an exercise regimen with my pulmonary doctor, and I am convinced that this faithful exercise has helped keep my COPD from progressing.

If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with COPD, don’t give up. Get active. And above all, have faith in yourself, and in God.

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Phyliss DiLorenzo

Phyliss DiLorenzo Profile Photo Brooklyn, NY
phyliss@dilorenzo.com

My name is Phyliss DiLorenzo. I live in Brooklyn; New York and I was diagnosed with COPD four years ago. I had earlier symptoms that I put off to getting older and being out of shape.

I quit smoking 5 months before my diagnosis. I am do glad that I did! What brought me to be diagnosed was pneumonia.

I saw my PCP, who sent me for an X-Ray. It was then I was told I have emphysema and battling a pneumonia infection and was given a rescue inhaler and medication.

Throughout that first year, I was short of breath on a daily basis. I received a nebulizer and another rescue inhaler. All of these were short acting bronchodilators, or SABAS, which gave only temporary relief and didn’t help against exacerbations. I was treated in hospital 5 times, for bronchitis, flu, and exacerbations from other respiratory infections.

After a particularly severe exacerbation, hospitalized for 3 days, most time on a BiPAP machine, my PCP referred me to a pulmonologist. I took a PFT (pulmonary function test) and was given a prescription for a long-acting bronchodilator, or LABA, and an emergency action plan.

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Nancy Robinson

Nancy Robinson Profile Photo Baltimore, MD
mozartessa@gmail.com

As a licensed clinical social worker, I recently completed2+ years working on a clinical trial for COPD patients and caregivers about the role of peer support in the management of COPD.

I hope to participate in research activities as a State Captain and connect others in the COPD community with the resources necessary to lead healthier and fuller lives.

I would also like to focus on issues that are important to caregivers, as they have separate and unique challenges to learn about the condition, to advocate for their loved one, and to take an important role in assisting health care professionals.

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Pat Billeb

Pat Billeb Profile Photo Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
bpbilleb@gmail.com

Let me introduce myself to you. My name is Patricia Billeb - I prefer people calling me Pat. I am a wife, mother and grandmother. I was diagnosed with COPD in 2011. I think I had an inkling that I had it, however, I was in denial until I was hospitalized. Here's the kicker - I quit smoking a week before I was diagnosed. Probably couldn't take another breath.

I had an excellent pulmonologist with a very caring nurse. I got stable and went through Pulmonary Rehab and embraced it with open arms. Through Rehab I was given copies of the Pulmonary Paper magazine and started googling everything. I got connected with a group known as EFFORTS. I was a regular member of the "walkers" window. One of the friends I made was Jean Rommes - she was holding a Lung Expo in Des Moines and I went. I was so excited about the Lung Expo - the Efforts group that my Pulmonary Rehab counselor asked if I would represent Efforts as a COPD booth. I have done that for the last four years. Last year I took along PPRN handouts to the WISCHPR Conference and have been asked to bring COPD Foundation information with handouts in 2018 - which will be held in Oshkosh.

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Debi Kealing

Debi Kealing Profile Photo The Woodlands, TX
debi.kealing@me.com

As a caregiver for my husband with COPD, I hope to encourage others who find themselves in a caregiving role by giving them support and helping them as they care for their loved one. I would love to share my experiences so that others may benefit.

As a State Captain, I am interested in connecting others in the COPD community to the resources that help them live fuller, healthier lives as well as helping others understand the issues that face caregivers.

My proudest COPD moment was when my husband went to a fitness facility for the first time. He is on oxygen 24/7 and was determined not to let that deter him!

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Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith Profile Photo Newport, KY
a.smith2@twc.com

Hello, I am Amanda Smith and I am happy to be a State Captain for the state of Kentucky. I was diagnosed with COPD in 2017 and want to help others who have been impacted by COPD.

I know what it is like to live with COPD and have taken an active role in my health by being informed, educating myself, and participating in programs like Pulmonary Rehab.

My motto in life is: Stop, take a deep breath in, be thankful. I would share those words with anyone who is living with COPD or who has a loved one with COPD. There is so much you can do to live life to its fullest.

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Tyler Voorhees

Tyler Voorhees Profile Photo Beavercreek, OH
tevoorhees@me.com

I am a respiratory therapist working to provide education and training throughout the Midwest to improve the quality of care COPD and bronchiectasis patients receive. Over the course of my career I have participated in health fairs and educational events to promote awareness and better education for those dealing with COPD.

As a State Captain, I hope to participate in promoting research opportunities to help find a cure, recruit new State Captain volunteers, and help connect people in the COPD community to the resources available so they can live healthier fuller lives.

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Stacey Blank

Stacey Blank Profile Photo Cumberland, MD
blanks2759@atlanticbb.net

Stacey Blank has been a respiratory therapist for over 30 years, and she is passionate about educating people about COPD and respiratory health. As a pulmonary rehab coordinator at her hospital in Maryland, she has opportunities to help not only the patients that come through her program, but also the family members and caregivers who are also looking for more information about COPD.

Stacey has been involved with the COPD Foundation for many years, through the former PEP program and is now a State Captain. In fact, one of her proudest COPD moments was being selected as the key author for the COPD Foundation’s Harmonicas for Health program, a music program designed to help improve the lives of those with COPD.

One of her favorite quotes is, “Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, it is measured by the moments that take your breath away!”-Anonymous

Please let Stacey know how she can help you in your quest for information and/or awareness of COPD in Maryland!

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Lorrie Williams

Lorrie Williams Profile Photo Ocean Springs, MS
lorriew39564@gmail.com

I am Lorrie Williams, State Captain in Mississippi. I live in Southern Mississippi and know firsthand what it is like to live with the challenges of living with COPD in the heat, humidity, and hurricanes. My diagnosis with COPD happened in 2017 and I found myself with a diagnosis I knew very little about. I felt desperate for answers and found the COPD Foundation was just what I was looking for.

One thing I am good at is being a wonderful encourager and I am dedicated to helping other people find the answers they are looking for about living well with COPD. I am eager to advocate and help raise awareness for COPD in her community.

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Carl Mullins

Carl Mullins Profile Photo Arlington, TX
CarlM1931@yahoo.com

I am a former caregiver to my wife who passed away from COPD. After she died I have been working tirelessly on behalf of the COPD Foundation, talking about COPD with anyone and everyone who will listen.

I have obtained donations to the COPD Foundation from businesses in my community like Walmart and CVS, have talked with my elected officials in Texas and recently as a part of IMPACT COPD, I spoke with several representatives in DC. I will speak with any group that would like to learn about COPD and have attended health fairs and support groups to disseminate information about COPD.

As a State Captain hope to continue my advocacy and fundraising work to help influence COPD policy and increase the public’s awareness about COPD.

My proudest moments are my advocacy work with my elected officials, which I do in honor of my wife, who is also my inspiration.

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COPD Foundation State Captain Program Informational Video

The COPD Foundation is looking for new State Captains to join our community to be champions for promoting COPD awareness, improving quality of life for those with COPD, to participate in research opportunities, policy, and much more. Email statecaptains@copdfoundation.org for questions and to start the onboarding process today!