Celebrating Our Priceless Volunteers
(April 13, 2015)
It's often said that the reason volunteers aren't paid is because their contributions are priceless. Nothing could better describe our thousands of dedicated volunteers all across the country. Whether they help provide community outreach, participate at events, provide vital leadership or support us in countless other ways, our American Lung Association volunteers are truly priceless. April 12-18 is National Volunteer Week, and we are celebrating the spirit of volunteerism, by looking at one volunteer who exemplifies all our outstanding volunteers – generous, engaged and deeply committed to our lifesaving mission.
Aaron Lipski, Deputy Chief, Milwaukee Fire Department
Aaron's involvement with the American Lung Association goes back to Milwaukee's first Fight for Air Climb in 2009. He was one of the original firefighters to participate. From the start, he showed he was going to be a very special volunteer, by helping to coordinate an on-air TV news story about the climb featuring other firefighters.
Over the years, Aaron has helped the Milwaukee Climb become the Lung Association's biggest and most successful Climb. He is Co-Chair of the Fight for Air Climb committee, has helped quadruple the number of firefighters participating, and has recruited a number of Climb sponsors and raised revenues for the Climb by leading multiple annual participant teams. Drawing on his professional experience, Aaron has become the "go-to" person for event day emergency management, helps coordinate the first responders at the event, and has even personally conducted many "assisted climbs" with climbers on oxygen, or with other medical conditions who require additional assistance to participate.
Aaron shares our passion to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease - particularly when it comes to reducing smoking rates. Smoking isn't just a threat to lung health, it is also a big concern for fire safety. "Smoking, and smoking-related materials are a major cause of residential fires, including those that occur in multi-unit dwellings," Aaron explains. "For example, in 2011, United States fire departments responded to about 90,000 smoking-related fires which caused 540 civilian deaths, 1,640 civilian injuries and $621 million in direct property damage."
This hard-fought firefighter experience has made Aaron a champion of the Lung Association's "Clear Gains" initiative. "Clear Gains" is a state-wide program in Wisconsin that provides educational resources and assistance for property owners and tenants who want to learn more about smokefree living environments. Smokefree multi-unit housing is a growing trend both in Wisconsin and the rest of the country. Thanks to his efforts, both the Milwaukee and Green Bay fire departments have joined the "Clear Gains" program.
"It's is a natural fit as both the Lung Association and fire departments aim to reduce smoking. We all want to reduce smoking, first because of the overwhelming health benefits, and second to eliminate smoking-related fires," said Aaron. "By eliminating smoking in a multi-unit dwelling, many resident' lives will be saved and the risks that firefighters encounter when managing these fires will be removed. In addition, smokefree housing can lead to a healthier community by reducing reliance on an already stressed 911 response system. Importantly, the cost burden associated with healthcare costs and property damage will be greatly reduced."
Furthering his commitment to reduce smoking, Aaron has also become a leader in the group working to implement "It's Quittin' Time," a multi-partner initiative to encourage smokers in the Milwaukee area to quit.
Aaron is making a real impact on the health and safety of the people of Wisconsin. We salute Aaron and our thousands of American Lung Association volunteers across the country who make our work possible and help to improve America's lung health every day.