In the 80’s, Superman Also Fought Asthma

air quality, comic books, writing

I share the following video with you for many reasons. For one thing, my temperament as a blogger basically demands it (it’s the 80’s, Superman, baseball, and air quality! in a video!), but mostly I’m posting it because of the story and appeal that follow, which I put  together as part of my work for the Air Quality Partnership of Lehigh Valley – Berks.

A personal story about this video from our Outreach Director:

If you’re like me, this coming weekend is going to be a tough one. Temperatures in the Lehigh Valley and Berks regions look to be sky-high, something that will make the air quality conditions (already forecast at Unsafe for Sensitive Groups levels) feel even worse.

I was diagnosed with asthma as a child. My family lived in western Berks County and I still remember the late-night trip to the hospital in Allentown during my first asthma attack. Before I experienced the condition first-hand, everything I knew about asthma came from a 30-second public service announcement featuring Superman. Kids with asthma were supposed to ask their parents to call the American Lung Association for a pack of free information, or, as it appeared to me at the time, free Superman stuff. To be honest, I felt left out and thought asthma must be awesome if it got the Man of Steel to show up at your pick-up baseball games. I didn’t feel that way the night of my first attack, or when we had to move from Maxatawny because the allergens in the fields by our house aggravated my condition to unbearable levels. I wasn’t glad for my asthma when I had to use inhalers and smoke machines, or when I couldn’t run as long or as fast as my friends in gym class. I’m not glad for it now on Air Quality Action Days like those expected today and tomorrow in the Lehigh Valley and Berks County regions.

Yesterday, those of you already on our e-newsletter list received an email from me via the Air Quality Partnership of Lehigh Valley – Berks. This was as a personal appeal for help connecting around Air Quality issues.

Today I wrote to many more people with a very specific reason and with a painstaking methodology. I combed through 2000 of my Google contacts, twice, and picked those that I knew personally as friends, by reputation or position as stakeholders and advocates, or by association with organizations that care about these kinds of issues. I chose elementary school friends, leaders in banks, educators, non-profit activists, PR people, news people, faith-community leaders, and representatives of groups who have expressed interest in being great corporate citizens in our region. I included health care professionals, government employees at state and local levels, chambers of commerce and entertainment insiders. I did this because I want to widen our net and strengthen our connections. I want more people to know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. And I want you to sign up for our monthly e-newsletters. I want you to follow us on Twitter. Yes, I want to you like us on Facebook

Here’s why.

I don’t have to tell you that times are tough. Sponsorship money and grant funds are increasingly hard to come by for obvious financial reasons. Even so, our work continues. Thankfully, our organization is light and relatively nimble. Much of the educational and promotional work we do can be done virtually, and initiatives like our online interactive learning experience for elementary school students have been very successful and are maintained at very low costs. Earlier this year, we leveraged fantastic materials composed by the EPA in the creation of an Air Quality Awareness Tool Kit for secondary teachers complete with lesson plans. Teachers across our three-country region are taking advantage of these free professional educational resources. We’re also reaching out to adults with new endeavors like the Share The Ride Challenge, a program whose time has come precisely because of much it costs commute in this economy. Of course, I’m always proud to reach out with sponsorship requests for any and all of these very worthy programs, but more important than money right now is something you can give us for free: social capital. We all know the power of social networks, and with good stewardship and effective communications in mind, we want to be a major presence in the social media make-up of our region. You can help us by connecting across platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and it doesn’t cost anyone anything.

But let’s be even more honest.

If you’re not someone already interested in Air Quality issues, you’re not as likely to leverage all of the valuable information coming from our Facebook and Twitter feeds or our daily Air Quality Forecasts as someone who is. But if you’re reading this on the Breathe Easy Blog,, or Daily Cocca, you’re one of the people I want to engage. As you know, changes start with relationships: my relationship to asthma is a prime example. But I’m interested in the relationships you’ve cultivated. I’m asking each of you to share this post with two people in our region or beyond who would benefit from access to the kinds of information we share on a daily basis. If you think you don’t know someone concerned about Air Quality, remember that so many of the folks affected on bad air quality days are children and the elderly. Do you know parents of young children? Do you know teachers? Do you know caregivers for elderly folks? We all do. And my guess is that in addition to those connections, you’ll share this email with a larger group of friends and colleagues.

I know this has been a long follow-up to a very short clip, and appreciate your time today more than you can know. My sincere thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for connecting with us today on Facebook and Twitter and sharing our mission with two friends.


Chris Cocca
for the Air Quality Partnership of Lehigh Valley – Berks

2 thoughts on “In the 80’s, Superman Also Fought Asthma

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