Of her four sons, Maureen Murphy always worried the most about Michael’s physical well-being. His love of heights and thrills landed him in the hospital several times as a child, and as he got older he sought bigger adventures.
So when he steps over the edge 278 feet above State and Lake Streets as part of Skyline Plunge! Chicago on Sunday, May 6, Michael will be thinking of his mom. The event is hosted by Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago to raise awareness and more than $100,000 for lung disease research and programs. Michael’s mom passed away from lung cancer in August of 2008, and while she’s not here to give 25-year-old Michael any words of warning before he rappels 27 stories, he knows she’d be proud of him.
In memory of his mom, Michael wants to make a difference by raising money for lung disease research. He set his personal fundraising goal for Skyline Plunge! Chicago at $2,000 – twice the minimum – and is already more than halfway to reaching it. He will be cheered on during his rappel by many of his donors, none of whom were surprised he chose to remember his mother in this way.
“It seemed like a no-brainer, because this is the craziest event for lung disease research that I’ve ever heard of,” Michael said. “I can just imagine my mom saying, ‘There has to be a safer way to raise money for Respiratory Health Association,’ but she would still support the charity and me in whatever I did.”
A lifelong resident of Evergreen Park, Maureen lived to serve others as a State Representative for the 36th district, the first woman to be Chairman of the Cook County Republican Party and the first suburban resident on the Cook County Board of Reviews. Michael, also of Evergreen Park, is often reminded of his mom’s impact on her constituents when strangers approach him to say they remember and respect Maureen for what she did for the community.
Unfortunately, Maureen’s political work was cut short when she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in May of 2006. The news came as a shock to her and her family because she hadn’t smoked for 25 years. Despite a grim diagnosis, it seemed as if Maureen could beat the odds.
“She was energetic, so we had a positive outlook despite what the doctors told us,” Michael said.
Michael and his siblings began spending as much time as they could with their mom. His favorite memory is when they took a trip to one of their parents’ favorite places, Maui, in January of 2008. They talked about what it’d be like if their mom was gone, but after seeing her dance at a luau, it seemed as if they were discussing something that wouldn’t happen. Unfortunately, several months later, Maureen’s health declined, and she passed away just over two years after her diagnosis.
Nearly four years later, her family still feels her absence every day.
“It’s amazing that it takes a whole family to fill in for what one person did,” Michael said. “Losing a parent has made me more responsible for myself and my decisions, but my mom prepared us and we’re working together to fill the void left when she passed.”
When his family gets together, Michael can always count on hearing a story or piece of advice involving his mom. And when he shares news about his accomplishments, it’s inevitable someone is going to say, “Your mother would be proud of you.” No doubt the same words are being shared now, a week before his rappel.
“Rappelling a hotel in downtown Chicago wouldn’t be my mom’s cup of tea,” Michael said, “but she was always one to give back to the community, and I know she’d support this.”
To also support Michael in his fundraising efforts or to offer words of encouragement, go to www.lungchicago.org/michaelmurphy.
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