A year and a half ago, Wheaton resident Daniel Dolan-Laughlin was given two or three days to live.
On Tuesday morning, the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease survivor and double-lung transplant recipient was honored at the White House for his volunteer efforts.
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Dolan-Laughlin, a retired railroad executive and American Lung Association volunteer, was one of 11 people honored as "Champions of Change" who are working on the front lines to protect public health in a changing climate.
"I've supported cleaner air and efforts to clean up the air for five or six years," he said. "It was not until my near tragedy and comeback that I decided to do what I could to give back to the American Lung Association in any way I could."
Dolan-Laughlin has since given testimony in Environmental Protection Agency hearings regarding power plant pollution and automobile tailpipe emissions. He also volunteers to meet with government officials in support of stronger clean air regulations and regularly leads lung association "Better Breathers Club" meetings to help others cope with COPD.
"We call on politicians and advocate for the hundreds of thousands of people who don't get a chance to plead for their cause," he said. "I try to be their voice."
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature groups of Americans -- individuals, businesses and organizations -- who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. Dolan-Laughlin, honored and humbled by his selection, called the assembly of "champions" a powerful group.
"I was the only non-doctor or scientist there, so I was the one attacking the issues from a victim standpoint," he said. "I was involved more as an advocate than a brain trust since I was the only one with practical experience."
While the honor certainly lends some credence to his message and efforts, Dolan-Laughlin said he believes it also will encourage him to continue volunteering and even try some new things.
"After suffering for several decades, I now have no complications and feel 25 years younger," he said, superstitiously not revealing his age. "Next week I'm climbing a 4,500-foot-tall mountain in the Adirondacks and I'm doing it just because I can. And I couldn't have 25 years ago."