Fourteen members of Blackfalds Fire Department climbed to the top of Calgary’s Bow building Sunday to raise $11,815 to support colleagues with cancer – including fellow firefighter Dave Sutherland.
At 1,020 metres above sea level, the Firefighters Stairclimb Challenge boasts the world’s highest elevation for a firefighter stair climb.
Sutherland, who fought fires for 15 years in Blackfalds, now battles glioblastoma, the same terminal brain cancer that killed Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip.
Blackfalds firefighter Chris MacDonald said his department had participated before, but Sutherland’s diagnosis struck home.
“That really changed everything. A lot more fundraising, a lot more people decided to join up this year,” said MacDonald Monday.
He said Sutherland was doing OK and has an MRI scheduled for June.
This year, the Blackfalds team was recognized for its fundraising efforts by organizers Calgary Firefighters Benevolent Society. Money from the challenge goes to Wellspring Calgary, a non-profit organization offering programs, services and resources for people living with cancer and their caregivers.
As of Monday at noon, the challenge had raised $334,000.
MacDonald said firefighters have a greater risk of cancer, but everyone knows someone who had or has cancer so he encouraged people to support the challenge, which is still accepting donations.
In Alberta, 14 presumptive cancers are recognized as occupational hazards for firefighters, but the goal of the event is to bring awareness and support to all firefighters and citizens living with cancer.
This year, more than 500 firefighters climbed the 1,204 steps of The Bow tower in full gear.
MacDonald said the climb never gets any easier.
“It’s hot, tiresome and just a grueling climb to the top.”
But once firefighters reach the 50th floor or so they can hear everybody yelling and cheering from above. Volunteers were also stationed on every three or four flights for encouragement, he said.
“You could always here someone yelling – Go Blackfalds.”
Among the Central Alberta fire crews, the Olds firefighters with 11 members raised $5,400.
Firefighter Noel D’arcy said as volunteers motivated and thanked participants during the climb, he wanted to thank them for all their hard work that made the event possible.
“The amount of work put in by volunteers was unbelievable. It’s a real feel-good event,” D’arcy said.
He said as soon as firefighters arrived at the top volunteers quickly helped them out of their gear, checked on their health, walked with them, and made sure they had refreshments. Then it was off to the street for a barbecue prepared by volunteers.
“You get to take the elevator back down,” D’arcy said with a laugh.
For more information visit calgarystairclimb.com.