Jen Dockendorf had been living in Hoboken for seven years in 2008 when her father, Chuck, was diagnosed with lung cancer.
She preferred not to go into much detail about his condition, but chemotherapy did little to improve it.
It was September of 2008 when Chuck heard the news, and he and his family were not prepared for his untimely death just three months later. He was 66.
“I miss just having him around to talk to, especially now that I have my son [Jordan],” Dockendorf said earlier this week as she prepared for the “Hustle Up the Hancock” fund-raiser.
In tribute to her father, for the past three years Dockendorf has attended the 94-floor climb of the iconic John Hancock Observatory in her native Chicago.
Every year over 4,000 people make the climb to raise funds for lung disease research, education, and advocacy. A form of lung disease has touched the majority of the participants in one way or another, according to the Respiratory Health Association that runs the event.
For Dockendorf, it took away a father’s loving warmth. She was an only child.
“It’s not your legs that hurt; it’s your chest, your lungs where you feel it.” – Jen Dockendorf
Dockendorf – who lives with her 3-year-old son – will lead “Charlie’s Turtles” at the event on Sunday, Feb. 28.
The name is partly inspired by Chuck and Dockendorf’s Aunt Kathy, who was nicknamed “Turtle” and passed away from a heart attack in 2012.
Dockendorf independently aims to raise $2,000 and thus far has $1,250 from online donations. People can donate even after the run. The entire team’s fund-raising goal is $5,000. To donate visit www.lungchicago.org/jendockendorf.
A climb in the ‘Windy City’
This year is the third that Dockendorf – who often trots along the waterfront or partakes in a yoga session in town – will make the arduous climb.
The John Hancock Center, where the event will take place, soars at 100 stories on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. The iconic structure was topped off in 1968.
When asked about her favorite part of the climb, Dockendorf said, “I would say being with friends and families and taking that time to remember my dad and my aunt.”
“I also love going back home since I live in Jersey now,” she added.
Charlie’s Turtles include Dockendorf’s uncle Robert (who has made the climb since about 2009), her cousin Jill’s husband Jeff Ftacek, and their children, 13-year-old “Little” Jeff and 9-year-old Jake. They also include a friend of her cousin’s, Jana Randich, and her cousin’s neighbor Conner Knorr.
As she makes the climb this Sunday, Dockendorf says she will have her father in mind.
“The thing that struck me when [he was diagnosed] and still stays with me is how it affects not only the individual in such a horrible way, but the family as well,” she said.
Despite what many think, the Hoboken resident says it’s not the stairs that make the climb grueling.
“It’s not your legs that hurt; it’s your chest, your lungs where you feel it,” she added, which in many ways fits with the very illnesses their fighting to cure.
Specific floors along the climb are set up for the teams to take water breaks before reaching the final finish line at the top, where all that’s left to do is enjoy the view.
Steven Rodas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.