Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue climbs stairs for cancer research
On Sunday, 44 TVF&R members competed in Seattle's Scott Firefighter Stairclimb to raise money to fight cancer
When Allen Kennedy made his way up the 69 flights of stairs of the Columbia Center in Seattle, it was his 16th time doing so. His 16th time donning all 50 pounds of his firefighting gear, steel-toed boots and all, and clambering up to the top of the building to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma.
On Sunday, 44 members of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue headed to Seattle to participate in the 24th Annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb to fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. So far this year, TVF&R has raised over $40,000 for the cause, and hopes to reach $50,000 by the end of this month, said Kennedy, TVF&R Division Chief who covers operations in Tigard, King City and Sherwood. During the past nine years, TVF&R has raised over $270,000.
I do it in memory of one of my partners who died of cancer; she was a firefighter paramedic who died at 36, said Kennedy. That pushed me over the edge to stay in it. We each have something to connect to like that.
For the event, 1,710 firefighters came together from places as far away as New Zealand and Chile. The motivation, Kennedy said, comes from two places. One is that the firefighters want to beat their previous times and finish well as a team. The other, larger motivational factor comes from the faces on each floor of current cancer fighters and those who didnt make it, or from personal experiences with loved ones.
I just lost a dear friend a month ago to leukemia, so I had extra fire in my belly this year. I was climbing for him. Thats my motivation, said Geoff Goodman, a paramedic at Station 66 and Beaverton resident. I was climbing in honor of my friend the last few years, and this year I was climbing in his memory. They are fighting, so why cant I?
Goodman, whos been participating in the Stairclimb for about 12 years, was the fastest TVF&R member to the top on Sunday, with a time of 13 minutes, 3 seconds. And even though he was the fastest, he couldnt remember if it was a personal best for him or not. As he said, Thats not why I do it.
To prepare for the competition, many of TVF&Rs members train on treadmills with all of their gear on, including air tanks, to get used to the extensive workout and strain brought on by rapidly climbing 788 feet of vertical elevation. For over ten years, theyve had a partnership with the U.S. Bancorp Tower, which allows them to train in the stairwells after hours.
Theres only one way to train and theres no better way than going into a high rise and putting on your gear and climbing the stairs theres not many evenings where there arent firefighters in there climbing, Kennedy said. We train for months in advance for this. Its not the kind of thing you can just get up and do.
Having competed four times, Marissa Martinis, a firefighter and emergency medical technician out of Station 57 in West Linn, is already plotting her training plan for next year, just days after making the climb.
Its hard, its uncomfortable, but its something you can train for. Its a competition with yourself and looking at what your teammates and people from across the country can do, she said. My favorite part is the fundraising. Asking people for money is hard, but they get to follow it along and see what other people and departments are raising. Its not just you write a check and off it goes, it keeps people interested and pulled in.
After 16 consistent years of participating in the fundraiser, itd be easy for the members of TVF&R to hang their hats on a job well done, but that isnt what theyre doing. After starting out with just four team members, including Kennedy, the goal has always been to involve more people and raise as much money as possible for a cause that effects so many people.
This is a competition second and a fundraiser first for leukemia and lymphoma. Theres really that personal side to committing to doing something like this, Kennedy said. Weve all been hit around us with people who have cancer, so theres that commitment it kind of weighs heavily on the team and thats really why were doing this.
Sixty-nine flights of stairs, 1,311 steps, 50 pounds of gear and a lot of motivation are what get the firefighters to the top of the tower every year, and the motivation seems as though it will propel them for years to come.JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT