COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Saturday was the 13th annual Fight For Air Climb put on by the American Lung Association. Participants climb 40 flights, or 880 steps, to the top of the Rhodes Tower in downtown Columbus.

The event raises money and awareness for lung disease and lung cancer. “We climb stairs because when they get to the top and they’re a little bit out of breath, and they say, ‘Man I can’t breathe, that was hard,’ we remind them that this is how people with lung disease feel on a daily basis when they’re just walking from their bedroom to their kitchen,” says Brittany Sinzinger, the executive director for the Columbus American Lung Association.

The Fight For Air Climb returned to Columbus’ tallest building for the first time since before the pandemic. The last time they climbed, Carley Auddino-Polko’s mom Taura was with them. Taura died of lung cancer in June of 2021.

“This is where she started the whole journey, where we started the whole journey with the American Lung Association, so it feels good to be back inside, but definitely a lot of emotions,” says Auddino-Polko. Taura climbed all 880 steps back in 2020 while battling cancer. Auddino-Polko says the climb is extremely difficult for even the healthiest person. But when she wants to quit, she thinks of her mom.

“My mom’s voice is in the back of my head telling me ‘you can keep doing it.’ If she could do this, and she made it all the way to the top of this tower, I can do it,” says Auddino-Polko. Team Taura Strong raised almost $10,000 this year for the Fight For Air Climb. There were 35 participants on the team. Auddino-Polko says it shows just how many people her mom touched.

She wants people to know that lung cancer can happen to anyone. “My mom was a non-smoker and she always wanted to make that point that you don’t have to smoke to get lung cancer,” says Auddino-Polko. “She was 47 with five kids, healthy, super active, fit and she got sick, so it does not discriminate.”

The Fight For Air Climb happens here in Columbus every year. To learn more about lung diseases, visit the American Lung Association’s website.