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Hustlin’ to Volunteer at the Hancock

Posted By Matthew Nicholas, Chapter Relations & Marketing Coordinator, Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Hustlin’ to Volunteer at the Hancock

By: Lauren Wojtaszek, SPTA and Jennifer Malutan, SPTA
Oakton Community College, Class of 2018

This past weekend we were volunteers at the Hustle up the Hancock. This event is run by the Respiratory Health Association (RHA). Every year more than 4,000 people climb to the top of the John Hancock building. The runners raise funds for the RHA’s lung disease and clean air education, research, and policy change efforts. More than half the participants have or know someone that has been affected by a lung disease, such as asthma, COPD or lung cancer.

Upon our 5am arrival at the Hancock, our team was asked to simply assist with setting up medals, snacks, water and posters. With some leisure time left before racers arrived at the top floor (the observatory room), we had the opportunity to view most of the informational posters distributed throughout the floor. One of the posters included facts and statistics about tobacco use, specifically tobacco use prior to the age of 21. We werekindly approached by a representative who introduced us to the Tobacco 21 movement by the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation who guided us through the information. Additional posters were placed on the observatory floor with educational facts along with information about how to get involved through petitions, volunteering and donations. We participated by handing out medals at the finish line to the runner, congratulating and thanking them for their participation and also cheered the racers at the finish line. At the end of the day, we were responsible to clean-up the area, which included taking down the posters, collecting any trash that was left around, and organizing the left over supplies, such as the extra water, granola bars, bananas, and medals.

Reflecting upon our service learning time and how it relates to the Standard of Ethical Conduct of the PTA, we related this opportunity to Standard 6 stating that “physical therapist assistants shall enhance their competence through the lifelong acquisition and refinement of knowledge, skills, and abilities.” Although we did not necessarily gain any skills or abilities pertaining to physical therapy exclusively, we now have some basic knowledge about tobacco use and lung conditions and have the proper resources to point our future patients in the right direction regarding respiratory health conditions.

Standard 1A states that "physical therapist assistants shall act in a respectful manner toward each person regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, social or economic status, sexual orientation, health condition, or disability." Chicago is a big blend of all these things listed and although this standard seems to go without saying, this should be true in every situation, not just in the physical therapy field. During our volunteer time, we helped people who were feeling light headed, nauseous, and out of breath. We helped anyone who needed it without discrimination and with an equal amount of compassion and concern, despite their characteristics and background. As a health professional this is especially important, in that all sorts of people come to us for our professional help, and it is our job to treat them with respect and equality throughout their span of care.

Standard 2A states the “physical therapist assistant shall act in the best interests of patient/clients over the interests of the physical therapist assistant.” When volunteering, one gives up their free time, opportunity to be with their friends and family, and sometimes even sleep to help others. Although volunteering can be rewarding, it is also an opportunity to give back to the community and others. Seeing how emotional some of the racers were- some racing for a family member who was lost to lung disease, others who overcame their condition themselves, and those climbing for their own personal gains or goal- made waking up earlier worth it. We have even had racers go as far as to individually thank us for our volunteering at the event. Regardless of whether one is appreciated for their volunteered time or not, having compassion for others around you and putting others before yourself can make the difference between a good clinician and great one.

Standard 7A states that “physical therapist assistants shall promote work environments that support ethical and accountable decision-making.” When told to perform a certain task, we did so, allowing the crew captains to focus on other tasks without having to worry about this one having to be done. They could count on us to move to a different location to perform a different task when needed as well, like when they needed more help in the cheering section of the finish line than where we were passing out medals.

Lastly, Standard 8A states that "physical therapist assistants shall participate in efforts to meet the health needs of people locally, nationally, or globally." Our team may not have directly helped people meet their health needs, but indirectly we were a part of helping the Respiratory Health Association raise close to one million dollars in donations which will then go towards helping those with lung disease through research and awareness. We were at this event to support an organization that advocates for people with impairments, activity limitations, participation restrictions, and disabilities in order to promote their participation in community and society. They raise funds for education, research, and policy change efforts for various lung diseases, hoping to cut down on the number of people suffering from these lung diseases and improving their ability to participate in various activities, such as this event.

During our volunteer experience, we were taken aback by how many participants there really were, and with such varying ages, the youngest participant was 7 years old, while the oldest was 93 years old. It was amazing to see so many people come out and participate in such an amazing event, from multiple states and even a few countries.We were able to learn more about an illustrious organization and event. Participating in this event reinforced our ongoing passion and interest in being involved with these types of organizations and race events. We plan to continue volunteering in this type of setting, hopefully getting a little more involved in the post race treatments, such as stretching and injury assessment. It’s also enjoyable meeting other volunteers and participants that have a similar interest. We were also considering participating in the event as runners next year, just to see another aspect of the race.

We learned from this exposure that there are always opportunities for us to volunteer at events or clinics, whether small or large, to give back to my community and to be a helping hand to the public. We have never left volunteering feeling as if it were a waste of time or energy but rather have left feeling positive, encouraged and optimistic about moving forward, personally and as a community. It brings a sense of unity, where strangers come together to better our world and to be there for others. Being college students limits our ability to contribute financially (hopefully for now) but have found that it can also, be helpful to the organization by giving our time, by petitioning, and by bringing awareness to others about their mission of helping those with lung conditions.

Every little thing does count. By expanding our own knowledge on these issues and gathering resources, such as the RHA website for future references, not only for ourselves but for others as well, adds more tools that we can utilize for our patients and for our loved ones. If you would like to donate or learn more about the cause and event you can find more information at

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