Steve Ferkau

2006 Volunteer Excellence Award Recipient

Steve Ferkau has been participating in the American Lung Association of Chicago's Hustle Up the Hancock event for three years. This is no small feat for the 45 year-old double lung transplant survivor. Just a few years ago, Steve couldn't climb the two flights of stairs to his office, yet for the last three years, Steve has climbed 94 stories, to the top of the Hancock building in Chicago. Steve suffers from cystic fibrosis, which left him home-bound and struggling to breathe with the aid of oxygen until 2000, when he received a pair of lungs from a beautiful young woman in Iowa named Kari. Kari was 17 when she died tragically from a brain aneurysm, but her lungs have allowed Steve to live.

Steve got connected with the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago at an NBC 5 Health and Fitness Expo. The Lung Association was in attendance promoting lung health awareness and the Hustle Up the Hancock stair climb event. Steve indicated he had paid the minimal fees to join the upcoming stair climb. With assistance from the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago staff, Steve raised over $9K with a few climbers in 2003. In the years that have followed, Steve raised $19K with 26 climbers in 2004 and $35K with 51 team members last year. The American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago has been working with Steve on year round cultivation by including his story in their Lung Association video, recruiting Steve as a speaker at their 2003 gala, as well as TV and print media stories. Steve's story even showed up on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times on Hustle weekend. The more the Lung Association staff got to know Steve and his family, the more they were inspired by him.

To honor the young woman whose lungs saved his life, Steve named his climbing team for her. Kari's Klimbers includes a number of Kari's close friends from Iowa. Steve's work has expanded to his family members as well. Steve's mother and wife now actively support the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago Catch Your Breath, Women and Lung Health Conference. Steve's sisters are involved in the stair climb and other areas of programming.

When he's climbing up the Hancock, Steve stops on each floor to speak to the hundreds of volunteers and other climbers to share his story and a photo of Kari. His experience has inspired many to donate, climb, and to volunteer. Steve has been a speaker at numerous events and occasions where he has spread the word of the good work of the American Lung Association. He inspired a high school auditorium filled with impressionable young students to become involved in charity work, and especially to volunteer for the Lung Association. Following Steve's presentation, ninety students have now become actively involved in activities and programs of the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago. This is the sphere of influence at it's best!

Over the last few years, Steve has raised nearly $65K and has raised the awareness level of lung disease in our community by an immeasurable amount. Those funds and his public awareness have made a positive and direct impact on our community programs. Steve inspires and motivates others to live life and enjoy every minute. Of course, Kari's Klimbers will be hustling up the Hancock again next February.