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Richmond wins COPD songwriting competition

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“He bought me my first guitar when I was 5. I wish I had practiced more,” Richmond recalled.

The song Richmond wrote, “Breathe Free,” received 3,000 of 11,000 votes to win the Fan Favorite award for the contest. While he settled on the title and focus of the song, it wasn’t his original idea.

When he began to jot down ideas, he said he was originally focusing on the DRIVE4COPD national campaign to raise awareness, which sponsored the contest. He was working with ideas that never seemed to pan out the way he intended.

One morning, Richmond said he woke up with the idea of “breathing free,” but couldn’t write it down before going to work. The idea stuck with him all day, and a melody slowly grew in his head until he went home.

He sat down in his studio and wrote the song in an hour, recorded it and when he brought out the notice for his father’s funeral, he realized the significance of the day. Richmond realized he had written the song on the 13-year anniversary of his father’s passing.

“It kind of fell out of the sky, it was almost like a gift,” Richmond said.

He quickly filmed and edited a video for the song with the help of his wife and had his contest entry submitted, hoping to raise awareness about COPD and help those who are coping with the disease or have had loved ones suffer from it.

Richmond dedicated the song to his father and said having the song chosen as Fan Favorite was “overwhelming. “He was a big inspiration to me, he really encouraged my music,” Richmond said of his father.

Not only does the song encourage people to take care of their physical health by not smoking, Richmond said he also hopes people will be screened for their risk in getting COPD.

While at work, he said he’ll tell patients to be screened or bring up COPD if they show symptoms. He said most people simply don’t know anything about the disease. He said COPD is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States and can affect people of all ages.

“One of the most shocking things is that so few people know about it,” he said.

After winning Fan Favorite, country music star Billy Ray Cyrus, who led the campaign and also has had loved ones with COPD, called Richmond to congratulate him.

While he’s still in the running for the overall contest winner, Richmond said he isn’t sure if he’ll put the song onto an album that he’s going to record soon.

“It (the song) is very specific, but it’s really been able to touch people,” he said.

He encouraged people to visit the DRIVE4COPD website and answer a few questions that will illustrate their risk for getting the disease. While the screen won’t be able to diagnose, Richmond said people can see their doctor to have a thorough examination if their risk is high.

He said that people over the age of 35 and those who smoke are most likely to have a high risk factor for COPD. Due to its subtle nature, Richmond said being proactive in assessing your risk level can go a long way to fighting the disease. 

Anyone can listen to Richmond’s song “Breathe Free” and see the video on www.drive4copd.com and take the brief, five-question screen to see if you might be at risk for COPD.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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