Rick Rodriguez, of Dublin, plans, for the fifth time, to make a little climb to honor a friend and the American Lung Association. The climb is "just" 1,197 strides. All uphill. All of them steps. Up to the top of the old Bank of America tower in San Francisco.
"It's 52 flights. My slowest time was 15:30. My fastest time was 13:07. Every year I try and break my previous record," he says.
Rodriguez's effort is part of the Society's seventh annual Fight for Air Climb, which serves as an important fundraiser for the organization. Like the previous four stair climbs, Rodriguez will honor the memory of his friend, Judy McConaghy, of Livermore. She died of lung cancer at 53 after overcoming Hodgkin's disease at age 10 and breast cancer at 39.
"When she was struck down with cancer, a friend told me about the climb, and I couldn't think of a better way than this to honor her."
There is, however, a much bigger backstory that explains why Rodriguez takes part in the climb. He moved to Dublin about five years ago after the tragic deaths of his teenage sons, Christopher and Ricky. Christopher was shot and killed at a party. His brother then fell into drug and alcohol addiction and died from a drug overdose.
"It devastated me. I knew I needed a clean slate, so I moved to California," where Rodriguez says he soon heard about a grief counseling program at an organization called Cornerstone in Livermore. It's there that he met Judy and Chuck McConaghy, who were facilitators at the program.
"They just wrapped their love around me. Judy's strength and courage to support me when it was hard for her (physically) to support me was amazing."
To get in shape for the annual climb, Rodriguez says he does a cleansing to drop a few pounds, and spend a lot of time in the pool to increase his cardio. Ironically, the longtime flooring business professional says working out on the StairMaster has been the worst preparation for the climb.
As he's done previously, Rodriguez will wear a baseball cap with Judy's name written on the front, and a photo button on the side. He pulls the brim of the hat down low so he can see the stairs but not look at the floor numbers. When he reaches the top, then he'll know he's climbed all 52 stories.
Judy McGowan passed away just days before the first climb, but their whole family is with Rodriguez when he does the knee-numbing climb. The biggest motivation, he says, isn't just keeping her memory alive.
"It's first with Chuck and the kids who wait for me at the top. Seeing their faces makes it all worthwhile."
To find out more, or to donate, visit www.FightForAirClimb.org.
Week of Acceptance: Teenagers do dumb things. That's been a given since time began. But they also do a lot of really good things, too, that sometimes are overshadowed by the bad.
A case in point is the Week of Acceptance that Dublin High students recently celebrated. Each day they wore a different color to raise awareness and sensitivity to issues which teen -- and others -- encounter and to show that "DHS is a home to all."
Monday was Race (red); Tuesday Religion (green); Wednesday Sexuality (purple); Thursday Special Needs (silver); and Friday was Anti-Bullying (blue).
It's not really a surprise to see this type of acceptance being displayed. This is, after all, the same school that received national news attention for voting in a young woman with Down syndrome as homecoming queen a couple years ago; established the "Best Buddies" club to partner a special needs-student with one from the general population to make the special needs student feel more a part of the school; and established a cheer program in which student is given a chance to participate.
Contact Alan Elias at email@example.com.