NAUGATUCK — More than 500 people turned out to support the first ever Michael Litwinka 5K Memorial Run May 19 in Naugatuck.
The run was put on to honor the late Michael Litwinka, a City Hill Middle School student who died last September at the age of 13 from an asthma attack.
“Our Michael was born on Oct.4, 1997. He was my first child. On Sept. 21, 2011, he breathed his last breath, collapsed onto the coffee table, and died,” recounted Norlean Litwinka, Michael’s mother.
Shortly after Michael’s death, Norlean decided to do something to honor her son’s memory and to raise awareness about the disease that claimed his life. She contacted her local American Lung Association and after a great deal of planning, the first Michael Litwinka 5K Memorial Run was scheduled for the month of May, which marks Asthma Awareness Month.
According to a release from the American Lung Association, more than $11,000 was raised from the race. The money will go to benefit asthma research, education, and advocacy.
“No parent should have to go through what Norlean Litwinka has endured,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Our organization’s mission is to save lives by preventing lung disease and improving lung health, and we view every death attributed to asthma as one too many. By sharing her story and hosting this event, Norlean is helping to ensure that more families know about the risks associated with asthma and have access to the tools they need to properly manage this disease. We are extremely grateful to Norlean for her generosity and her willingness to speak publicly about this personal tragedy.”
According to the association, more than seven million children in the United States are living with moderate to severe asthma. On average, 11 people die from asthma or asthma-related complications every day in the United States, according to the association.
The association plans to continue hosting the Michael Litwinka 5K Memorial Run. Donations for this year’s event are still being accepted. To donate, visit lungne.org/events. To learn more about asthma, visit lung.org/asthma.