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Albuquerque residents climb to top of 500 Marquette Building for lung disease

Hundreds of Supporters will Scale 30 Flights of Stairs in the American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb

(March 21, 2017) -

Melissa Esquibel wants to be number one this year. Last year, Esquibel finished third in her division at the Fight For Air Climb, a vertical race to the top of the 500 Marquette Building, but on April 1 she’ll be gunning for the lead spot. Either way, at the top, her son, Gary Esquibel, the reason she is climbing, will be waiting for her.

Esquibel will join hundreds of local supporters in scaling 30 flights and more than 360 steps up the 500 Marquette Building as part of the American Lung Association in New Mexico’s annual event. Participants in the Fight For Air Climb raise money for lung disease advocacy, education and research, and these funds help researchers and physicians better understand lung disease and develop critical treatments that can save lives.

“The Fight For Air Climb is truly a unique experience for both running and fitness enthusiasts, as well as our participants that are suffering from a lung disease,” said Terry Huertaz, executive director of the American Lung Association in New Mexico. “And the Climb is a reminder that no one should have to fight for air on a daily basis.”

Like most participants, Esquibel’s reasons for climbing are purely personal. A motorcycle accident five years ago paralyzed Gary Esquibel and led to lung complications, which have caused infections and respiratory failure. Esquibel, who is her son’s primary caregiver, became involved in the Climb last year and saw it as a chance to teach more people about lung disease and lung cancer.

“There are many misconceptions about lung disease and lung cancer and smoking,” said the Albuquerque resident. “Although smoking is the greatest risk factor for lung cancer and other lung diseases, in the case like my son’s, it had no relevance to him now having lung disease.”

Participants of the climb raise money for lung disease research, education and advocacy. Last year, Esquibel was the top individual fundraiser. Additionally, firefighters and first responder teams will be scaling the stairs in full gear to raise funds to fight lung disease. 

The American Lung Association in New Mexico’s 2017 Fight For Air Climb is sponsored by Kindred Hospital Albuquerque, Pima Medical Institute, BlueCross, BlueShield of New Mexico, Superior Ambulance Service, Davita Medical Group, the New Mexico Professional Fire Fights Association and The RMR Group.

“This event is very near and dear to my heart and I definitely make the Fight for Air Climb one of my yearly events to get involved in,” Esquibel said. “This will be my second year climbing for Gary and what I'm mostly looking forward to is seeing the pride in my son Gary's face when I cross that finish line. Running those stairs is no easy task, however, I keep in mind what he goes through every day and that keeps me climbing, one step at a time. I will never give up.”

For more information or to register, contact [email protected] or 505-265-0732, or visit


About the American Lung Association in New Mexico 

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit the newly redesigned website:

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