Climb for Clean Air: Cathy Cheney takes on Mount Hood for lung association

June 2016 Posted in People
Cathy Cheney

Cathy Cheney

By Kristine Thomas

Mount Angel resident Cathy Cheney thought about it, even considered it, but in the end, she just couldn’t tell Gayle Goschie “no.”

Cheney was at The Gallon House in Silverton last December watching the Portland Timbers play in the championship game on TV. When she turned around, she saw Goschie, who asked her out-of-the-blue if she wanted to climb Mount Hood for a good cause.

“In my mind, I am thinking there is no way I want to do that,” she recalls.

But she told Goschie she would attend a meeting to learn about the American Lung Association’s Climb for Clean Air.

“I think I gave Gayle that answer because I was just being polite because I like Gayle so much,” she said, laughing.

A full-time photographer for The Portland Business Journal, Cheney, 62, also wasn’t sure she would have the time to fit the training into her already busy schedule. And she had serious concerns if she could raise the money. Instead of making a decision, little things began to happen, each pointing her in the direction that she needed to accept this challenge.

If she was going to make the climb, she said, she knew she had to be in top physical shape – and she would need to know how to do a pull-up, on the off chance she fell into a crevasse.

Talking with Silverton Fitness owner Mike Thompson, Cheney discovered his late wife, Elizabeth, had died from asthma. Then she learned her work schedule would be reduced to 32 hours a week, leaving her Fridays off.

She talked with Goschie, who made the climb in 1999 and continues with the program as a volunteer trainer, and Silverton resident Naseem Rakha, who made the climb in 2015.

The more she learned – and the more people she found she knew who had died from a lung disease – the more she needed to say “yes.”

The first intimidating hurdle was asking people to make a donation toward her goal of raising $3,400. Yet, she quickly learned that between the people she and her husband, John Finklea, knew it could be done. On March 19, Thompson organized a fundraiser at Silverton Fitness, netting $1,500. As of May 24, Cheney has raised $5,848.50.

“This cause is near and dear to my heart for I lost one of my cousins, Evelyn Reid DeCourseay, to cystic fibrosis at very young age. I took on this challenge in loving memory of her,” Cheney wrote on her American Lung Association’s Climb for Clean Air page.

“My hope is that the money I raise will help in the research to eradicate this dreadful disease and no young child will have to suffer with it.”

When she makes the climb, Cheney will carry mementos of her cousin, Elizabeth Thompson and Katherine Dunn, who died in May from complications of lung cancer. Dunn and Cheney worked together at Willamette Week. 

The climb begins June 7 when the group makes it way to a base camp. At 1 a.m. June 8 they begin the five-hour hike to the summit.

Since February, Cheney has participated in training, each hike teaching her valuable lessons. On her first, she was unprepared for the weather.

“I look back now and realize how lucky I was,” she said. “Nothing I had with me was waterproof and let me tell you it didn’t just rain, it poured. I survived because it was unseasonably warm and no wind.”

Her friends have loaned her clothing, equipment and their support.

“This is a great program. It has gotten me out of my comfort zone and given me the goal to reach the summit,” she said. “It’s was something I didn’t think I could do. Now I look at things differently and realize what I can do.”

To make a donation, send an email to Cathy Cheney at 

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