“The Brat Pack” Climbs with American Lung Association in Memory of Loved Ones Lost to Lung Cancer

Stairclimb event supports nonprofit’s research, education and advocacy efforts

(November 19, 2013)

The American Lung Association returns to Boston for its ninth annual Fight for Air Climb: Race Up Boston Place on Saturday, February 1, 2014. About 2,000 climbers are expected, including over 500 firefighters, to tackle the 789 stairs of One Boston Place, one of the tallest buildings in the city, all to raise money in the fight against lung disease.  For the third year, Jennie Whitman, Nakita Herzig and Deborah Miller will climb One Boston Place as the team that calls themselves “The Brat Pack.” Each woman climbs for loved ones who they have lost to lung cancer, the leading cancer killer of Americans.

Whitman, 30, of Dorchester, MA, and Herzig, 27, of Newton, NH, first climbed in 2012 as part of another team. At the time, Herzig’s father and Whitman’s stepfather - the two are stepsisters - was battling lung cancer. Donnie Herzig was just 47 years old when he was diagnosed with Stage III lung cancer. He passed away last July after a three year long battle with the disease. “Although my father was a smoker, he never thought something like this would happen to him,” said Nakita Herzig. “Back when he started smoking, people didn’t really know the side effects and what it was doing to their bodies.”

Herzig family
(L to R): Jennie Whitman, Karen Herzig, Donnie Herzig and Nakita Herzig

Herzig remembers the time leading up to her father’s diagnosis very clearly. “My Dad was having shoulder pain for quite a while and the doctors tried everything to help him; physical therapy, different medications and stretches, you name it,” said Herzig. It wasn’t until an X-ray was ordered that doctors thought something could be wrong with Donnie’s lungs. “At first, my father was diagnosed with COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease],” continues Herzig. “Only after more tests were performed did they discover it was Stage III lung cancer.”

By the time the two climbed for the second time, Donnie Herzig had lost his battle with lung cancer just a few months earlier. The two decided to form their own team, “The Brat Pack,” to honor their father’s memory. “When we were kids, my stepfather used to call me and my stepsister [Nakita] his brat children,” said Whitman. “We loved the idea of using our team name as a way to honor our Dad.”

Deborah Miller, 56, of Turner Falls, MA, climbed for the first time in 2013. She credits her friend, Jennie Whitman, as the reason why she became involved in the Fight for Air Climb. When Whitman was climbing for the first time in 2012, Miller had supported her friend with a donation. When the next year’s climb came around and Miller received her email she replied, “I want to join your team!” Miller, who lost her father, Stanley Dobosz, to lung cancer in 1985, has since been an avid supporter of many charities, including the American Cancer Society, and was immediately interested in taking part in the Fight for Air Climb. “I’ve been pretty active with other charities since my father passed and have always looked for more exacting ways to support lung cancer,” said Miller. “When Jennie asked me to be a part of her team, it felt like a perfect fit for me.”

Miller is especially looking forward to the upcoming Fight for Air Climb in February because she will be climbing with thirty less pounds. “I was actually surprised that last year I did not finish at the bottom of the pack,” explains Miller. She became inspired after her last climb and has since been living a healthier and more active lifestyle. Miller is preparing to take on the 41 floors of One Boston Place again by climbing stairs of the office building she works in whenever she can.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of Americans, responsible for more deaths in the United than breast, colon and prostate - combined.  Lung cancer is not just a smoker’s disease; each day 78 people who have never smoked die from lung cancer. The American Lung Association is working hard to eliminate the stigma that lung cancer carries and believes that no one deserves lung cancer. Visit LungNE.org for more on what the American Lung Association is doing to combat lung cancer and to support those who are diagnosed with the disease.

Brat Pack 2013
"The Brat Pack" in February 2013

All proceeds from the Boston Fight for Air Climb will directly fund lung disease research, advocacy and education; including smoking cessation programs, COPD/asthma management, and advocacy for stronger clean air standards. Last year, Race Up Boston Place raised almost $440,000 to support the mission of the American Lung Association.

To support Jennie, Nakita, Deb or The Brat Pack with a donation, visit go.lungne.org/BratPack2014.

“Race Up Boston Place” is sponsored by CB Richard Ellis, ImmunoGen, Inc., DSCI, Lahey Health, Kindred Hospital Boston and Whole Foods Market. The event is also made possible with the support of national Corporate Team partner, Kindred Healthcare.  To learn more about Race Up Boston Place, or to make a donation that could save lives, visit ClimbofYourLife.org.