Catskill Daily Mail: A breath of fresh air

Published: Saturday, December 18, 2010

In the early 20th century, tuberculousis was the leading cause of death in the United States. Once known as “consumption” the disease was caused by bacteria and affected the lungs of millions of people worldwide.

Early treatment for the disease involved placing patients in special hospitals called sanitoriums. When a Delaware facility fell on economic hard times in 1907 and was in danger of closing, a Red Cross worker came up with the idea of selling special holiday seals, selling them for a penny apiece at local post offices, creating the first-ever Christmas Seals campaign.

Volunteer Emily Bissell’s project raised ten times the goal that first year and the American Lung Association parlayed that success into an annual program that has spanned the century.

As the American Lung Association’s focus widened to include all respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, air pollution and asthma, more and more people began to attach the festive seals to their holiday mailings and packages.

“The mission of the American Lung Association in New York has grown over the years to include research into all respiratory diseases, including asthma, COPD and lung cancer," said Scott T. Santarella, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York. “Christmas Seals donations continue to be vitally important to our efforts to reduce the burden of lung disease on New Yorkers and fund important research dedicated to finding cures and improving patient outcomes.”

Despite advances in medicine, 2.5 million residents in New York along suffer from some form of lung disease. The Christmas Seals program helps fund research and advocacy to improve the quality of life for everyone.

Today, asthma is the leading serious chronic illness among American children, affecting more than 7 million children. The American Lung Association facilitates asthma-care partnerships involving school nurses and educational staff as well as physicians, families and Association volunteers.

So this year, while wrapping your packages and writing cards to friends and family, remember to affix the now-familiar Seal, supporting the cause for a better quality of life for everyone.

For more information on the American Lung Association’s Christmas Seals campaign, visit