Vickie Klein

Vickie Klein has been involved with the American Lung Association for over 16 years. Through her fundraising efforts, leadership of community initiatives and advocacy on behalf of those who suffer from lung disease and those who need help to stop smoking, she has increased awareness of the American Lung Association and the tremendous need for continued research and educational programs. Her personal commitments of time, talent and financial support for the American Lung Association have touched many people's lives in every community she has lived in since 1990 when she enrolled in a respiratory therapy program at Belleville Area College in Illinois.

Vickie was 20 years old when her mother-in-law died from lung cancer, at age 48. At the time, Vickie wondered why there seemed to be a lack of resources to help her family understand what had happened. Nearly nine years later, Vickie decided to become a physical therapist, but all of that changed the day she job shadowed a respiratory therapist. This experience launched a new beginning and decision to help those who are struggling to breathe. "We all take breathing for granted," she said. Last year her uncle died of lung cancer at age 60. In six months time he lost over 100 lbs. Vickie's heart sank as flashes of her mother-in-law's face lingered in her mind. "I knew I had to get involved many years ago and ALA continues to give me an opportunity to do that."

As a smoking cessation educator for the American Lung Association, Vickie has helped to prevent lung disease through education and support of people trying to quit. One of Vickie's personal approaches to raising awareness of the dangers of smoking is to give a smoker a pack of cigarettes. "That's right! I know this sounds strange, but it actually opens dialogue to talk about why the person should quit smoking," said Vickie. She slips her business card with the words, "Thank You for Smoking" or "Thanks for Job Security," between the cellophane and inside cigarette wrapper. When people ask her why she's thanking them for smoking, she explains that as a respiratory therapist she helps people who are struggling to breathe every day of their lives. Many can't breathe well due to smoking and some still smoke. She used this technique to help a friend kick the habit. Unfortunately, smoking cigarettes had already done too much damage to her friend's health and she passed away last year. "Whenever we talked, my friend would remind me that she still had that pack of cigarettes with my message inside," said Vickie.

Vickie's diverse talents in fundraising for the annual gala and Asthma Walk have contributed greatly to the success of each event held in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Every year she has helped to secure sponsorships for the gala and has spread the word and increased participation in the asthma walk. Vickie currently serves on The Life & Breath Awards Gala Committee. She has single-handedly taken on an aggressive campaign to secure table sponsorships and auction items. She has also supported Lung Association staff in their efforts and fundraising goals for this event.

Vickie has educated the community about asthma and taught them how to better care for themselves and their loved ones. She has been a cheerleader to those who are trying to quit smoking and encouraged those who don't want to quit to at least become aware of the consequences of smoking. She also helps connect people through her Better Breathers Clubs, which improves their quality of life. An Asthma Walk supporter and Asthma Educator for over 16 years, she has corralled the community to support asthma research and education. Vickie says, "The American Lung Association is leading the way for tobacco cessation, asthma education, and many other programs in the community."