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Meet Mike and Helen Redding of the Christopher D. Redding Youth Asthma Foundation

Big things are happening in 2023. At the start of the new year, we announced that we are expanding into Lake County in partnership with the Christopher D. Redding Youth Asthma Foundation, founded by Mike and Helen Redding. It was important that we share Mike and Helen’s story in their own words – read on to learn about their journey and how they first connected with MCC!

Mike and Helen Redding with MCC team members Louisa Pavlik (Grant Writer) and Melissa Reyes (Medical Program Coordinator)

Tell us your story- how did CDRYAF come to be?
In November 2003, our youngest son Christopher passed away, at age 18, from a fatal exercise induced asthma attack while jogging near our home, just hours before returning to college (Drake University) later in the afternoon. It was only the second asthma attack suffered by Christopher in his life time…the first occurred just one year previously while he was running track at a high school meet. Christopher’s untimely death revealed to us how little we knew about asthma—we thought that the first asthma attack was an isolated event; after all, Christopher was strong of mind and body, spending much of his time in the weight room at Lake Zurich High School!

Determined that no other family should undergo a senseless tragedy due to a lack of education about asthma, the CDRYAF was formed to provide asthma screenings, asthma management education to youth, families, athletic personnel and communities, access to recreational opportunities (such as asthma camps) for youth with asthma, and college scholarships to graduating high school student athletes with a diagnosed case of asthma. CDRYAF also advocates for legislative changes for improved asthma management policies such as standardized asthma management protocols and stock albuterol to assist asthma exacerbations while students are in school.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves….
As 38-year residents of Lake County (Lake Zurich), the Redding Family and its 9-year old community based charitable organization, hold strong ties in Lake County. The Christopher D. Redding Youth Asthma Foundation received its 501(c)(3) designation in 2014 and launched operations in 2015. The Foundation is governed by a 9-member Board of Directors and operated primarily with the assistance of our working Board of Directors, volunteers, and collaborating partners. Our programs include asthma screenings and management, asthma management education (workshops and health fairs), college scholarships to graduating high school student-athletes with a diagnosed case of asthma, and advocacy for improved asthma management policies in Illinois schools.

On a personal note, we are the proud parents of three sons (Paul, Michael Jr., and Christopher), grandparents of six grandchildren and great grandparents of one grandson.

Helen is the Founder of the Christopher D. Redding Youth Asthma Foundation. She spent more than 42 years in the banking industry and retired as a Senior Vice President from Citigroup, Illinois in 2013. Helen is actively involved in community and civic activities as a proud member of both Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and The Links, Incorporated.

Michael Sr. is the Co-Founder of the Christopher D. Redding Youth Asthma Foundation and also retired after spending more than 40 years in Telecommunications and Food manufacturing industries.

We’d love to get to know Christopher!
Christopher was a 3-sport scholar-athlete, honor student, and Captain of the Lake Zurich High School Football team where he led his team to the IHSA Class 7A semi-finals. Christopher played the position of running back, and was the second highest rusher and scorer in the school’s history. Active in high school athletics, Christopher was also a member of the Wrestling and Track teams. While Christopher was undoubtedly a gifted athlete, Lake Zurich High School alumni, coaches, and teachers remember Christopher most as a person of strong character and leadership ability.

Christopher was a member of the National Honor Society and volunteered with Lake Zurich High School’s peer mediation and mentoring program. He was elected Homecoming King during his Senior year of high school. Following his graduation from Lake Zurich High School in 2003, Christopher attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa where he majored in Business Administration and was a member of the football team.

Christopher was not only an outstanding student-athlete who did not smoke cigarettes nor drink alcohol but was a young man of faith who studied his Bible and worshipped God. Immediately upon enrolling in college at Drake University, Christopher joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes which is a national organization. A few of Chris’ hobbies were computer technology, social media, playing video games with his many friends, and dancing at some of the local dance clubs. Some of Chris’s long-term goals were to play college football along with playing in the NFL and eventually forming his own software company.

What are your proudest accomplishments since launching CDRYAF and why?
We started our Foundation to help other families avoid the same tragedy as ours, so educating families and advocating for asthma-friendly policies for those families in underserved communities have been among our proudest accomplishments. This is Christopher’s legacy!

How and when did you first meet Matt and the Mobile Care Chicago team?
We first met Matt in 2014 when he served as a Program Manager for Mobile Care Foundation. My vision to start a Foundation to help youth in underserved communities began with educating myself and conducting a great deal lot of research on asthma and asthma disparities in many zip codes in
the Chicago area. We are talking months of research which taught me that barriers to medical ac
cess was one of the greatest issues for youth in underserved communities who were using hospital emergency departments as their primary care physicians!

My great idea…why not take the medical access to the youth in those communities…meet the kids where they are…start a mobile asthma van! My research led me to an already existing Mobile Asthma Van…Mobile Care Foundation! I called Matt and requested a meeting to learn more! Matt was very gracious, informative, and gave me all the time I needed to learn about and understand the Mo bile Asthma Van program, which became my dream and long-term vision! We became partners with Mobile Care, assisting with screenings and asthma management education to schools and community groups located in underserved communities, and even “borrowing” the Mobile Asthma Van for our planned community events. Mobile Care was our first partner and has been the best partner for a small, emerging organization like the Christopher D. Redding Youth Asthma Foundation since that first meeting. We were always treated with dignity, respect, and equally even though we were newly formed and much smaller. So, when the opportunity came to collaborate on acquiring and operating a Mobile Van jointly, it was the realization of our dream!

What made you want to continue working with MCC?
As noted above, the kindness, dignity, and respect with which we have always been treated; the cooperation to achieve mutual goals of stamping out asthma in underserved communities, and the willingness to always assist the CDRYAF when needed! Working with Mobile Care will assist our mutual goals….CDRYAF benefitting from the 22-years of expertise of Mobile Care operating mobile clinics and Mobile Care benefitting from CDRYAF’s community ties in the Lake County area.

Tell us a little more about the Lake County’s need for accessible health services- How will launching a mobile unit impact your foundation and community?
With assistance from the University of Chicago ACHIEVE program, we recently conducted an assessment of asthma in the Lake County area. We received data indicating the severity of asthma in Waukegan, Zion, North Chicago and other communities in Lake County. Launching a mobile van in Lake County will assist in mitigating these issues as we eliminate barriers to medical access and pro vide specialist care which will allow youth in these underserved communities to control their asthma, reduce emergency department visits, and improve school absenteeism and missed work days for parents and guardians.

What is your ultimate goal with CDRYAF?
Our goals are to own and operate a mobile van that serves families in underserved communities in the Chicago Metropolitan area while also providing asthma education and promoting asthma aware ness and prevention. Long-range goals also include sponsoring or operating an asthma camp where youth can learn to manage their asthma in a fun learning environment.

What are you most excited about for 2023?
Working with Mobile Care Chicago which has a proven history of success.

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