'Amanda's Army' Climbs Suburban Tower to Memorialize Friend Lost to Lung Cancer

Chicagoland resident Amanda Gillette was diagnosed with lung cancer at just 39 years old and passed away from the disease three weeks after her diagnosis. On February 8, a little more than a year after her death, a group of her friends and loved ones will climb a suburban tower in her memory as “Amanda’s Army.”

In the fall of 2018, Gillette developed a persistent cough. The doctors didn’t know what it was at first, but more tests revealed that she had stage III lung cancer. Gillette was part of a dedicated book club with a group of her good friends. The book club, along with her other friends and family, formed a group called “Amanda’s Army” to show her support after her lung cancer diagnosis.

Unfortunately, within just three weeks of her diagnosis on December 20, 2018, Gillette suffered a stroke and passed away as a result of the lung cancer.

“It was really, really hard for us at the first book club after she passed. Amanda was so outgoing and friends with everyone,” said Heather Kastor, longtime friend of Gillette. “She brought us all together. You miss her voice, her laugh and her fun sprit of bringing us all together.”

Just a few days after Gillette passed, Emily Page Hinton, one of her book club friends, learned about the American Lung Association in Greater Chicago’s Fight For Air Climb at Oakbrook Terrace Tower. Gillette’s longtime friend and book club member, Dawn Nelson, decided to start a team.

“I thought the Fight For Air Climb would be something positive for everyone to be together. And it worked out. I think it did help put a positive spin on something negative,” said Nelson. “It was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed ourselves.”

On February 9, 2019, the Amanda’s Army team came together to climb Oakbrook Terrace Tower. The team had nine members and raised $4,887. As a result, they were awarded the highest fundraising friends and family team for the event. This year on February 8, Amanda’s Army will again take the stairs of Oakbrook Terrace Tower in memory of their friend. This year, the team will have a special team member. Gillette’s 4-year-old daughter Madison will climb with Amanda’s Army.

“Amanda was the type that once you met her, it didn’t matter if you knew her for 10 minutes or 10 years, you were pretty much considered family forever. She was passionate about always helping people. If you needed anything, she would fight to get you what you needed,” said Nelson. “She would like the idea that we are doing the Fight For Air Climb for her.”

“We climb to honor Amanda. I think that it is important to keep this tradition to honor her and have her daughter remember that she was such a great person,” said Kastor. “I love it because not only are we honoring Amanda, but we are helping other people who are going through lung cancer and lung disease.”

“Amanda was really special to us. We want her daughter to know that she was a beautiful person,” Kastor added.

The Fight For Air Climb at Oakbrook Terrace Tower invites individuals, families, groups of friends, corporate teams and first responders to climb the tallest tower in the Chicago suburbs. Money raised at the event funds life-saving lung cancer research and supports local programs to help people who live with lung disease. For more information and to register, visit FightForAirClimb.org/OakbrookTerrace.

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