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Lung disease inspires woman to dedicate life to cause

Date: 5/4/2010

May 5, 2010.

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Every day Donna Hawk of Westfield is reminded of how quickly life can change for a person with lung disease.

Hawk, a respiratory therapist at Baystate Medical Center, dedicates her professional life to the betterment of lung health; and as a 20-year volunteer with the American Lung Association (ALA) of New England, she immerses her personal life as well. Her dedication to the cause has garnered Hawk the ALA's 2010 New England Volunteer Excellence Award.

"Volunteers like Donna are a vital part of our organization and are critical in helping us achieve our mission," Judy Deane, regional director for volunteer and board development for the ALA of New England, said. "Our organizational achievements are directly attributed to the dedication and commitment of our volunteers.

"From special events to advocating for healthy air, our volunteers help us get the job done," she continued. "We are indebted to them for their service."

Deane said she can always count on Hawk to serve the ALA with professionalism and dignity.

"She just always has a smile on her face and has never missed an opportunity to volunteer and is really respected by personnel and volunteers alike," Deane added.

When asked about receiving the award, Hawk replied, "I was so honored because there are so many people who give so much of their time to the Lung Association and I just really feel like on cog in the wheel."

Hawk explained she became involved with the ALA because of her work at Baystate and the ever-decreasing air quality in the Pioneer Valley.

She noted the ALA released its annual State of the Air Report Card last week. The Pioneer Valley received an F for Ozone and a C for Particulate Pollution, with children under the age of 18 posing the highest risk for lung diseases.

Hawk added that the Russell Biomass Plant would continue to downgrade air quality in the area.

She said come July 1, her volunteer efforts with the ALA would increase substantially when she becomes chair of the leadership board in Massachusetts.

"We have folks that come together from all over Massachusetts and discuss the issues facing the breathing status of our state," Hawk explained of the board. "We help to guide the programs and develop volunteers so that more of this important work [within the ALA] can be done."

To learn more about the ALA or volunteer opportunities, visit