Hope’s firefighters are rising up for lung health.
A group of seven from the department have been training regularly, on their own and as a team, for the annual Climb the Wall fundraiser for the BC Lung Association, on Feb. 23. And that wall? It’s actually the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver — which has a nearly 750 stairs from top to bottom.
That’s 48 stories to climb, all with their full gear on.
“I think with the pants and jacket, it’s 50-60 pounds,” says Rebecca Arrowsmith. “We used to have the steel tanks, but they’re carbon fibre now so it’s a little lighter.”
First, the firefighters are greeted by a bagpipe band and piped in. Then, teams go up in 10-second increments. When they get to the bottom, there’s a barbecue and a bit of celebration at the bottom.
This will be the fifth time the Hope firefighter has climbed the wall, and this year’s group is made up of veterans and newbies alike. She’s the team captain, and is happy to be doing it again. Joining her will be Jenn Cook, Monica Cummins, Mark Duncan, Branden Stewart, Joshua Westcott and Peter Faulkner.
Over the past few years, she’s watched the fundraising event grow in terms of firefighter participation. While they were just a small part of the climb that first year she took part, this year there are already more than 200 firefighters that plan to make the climb. They’ll come from all over the province. In addition to those climbers, the public is invited to take part as well, although not geared up.
“It’s definitely getting busier each year,” she says. “You can do it in your fire gear or gym stuff. The first time I did it, the firefighters were there but not the main focus.”
They’ve been training every Tuesday, and meeting in smaller groups to go to the gym. They all have their own activities to stay in shape, as well. Arrowsmith, for example, also plays soccer three times a week.
Held annually for the past 19 years, the Climb the Wall helps fund vital lung patient support programs, research and advocacy initiatives.
It’s a fundraiser that the Hope Fire Department is thrilled to support. Fire Chief Tom DeSorcy is the BC Lung Association’s vice chair, and makes the connection between firefighters and health care clear.
“Climb the Wall is one of few events that brings B.C.’s firefighting community together with the public to help give those affected by lung disease hope, help and a voice. And beyond being a meaningful way to spend a Sunday – it’s a lot of fun,” he says. “Many participants bring their kids along with them. There’s always lots to see, and a ton of positive energy.”
Hope has been supportive of the participating firefighters in the past, and Arrowsmith says there is a chance coming up to chip in to the fundraiser in a fun way.
They will be hosting the meat draw at the Hope Legion on Feb. 8, and all the proceeds from the night will go to their team. In addition to the meat draw, there will be a 50/50, raffle draw and donation accepted.
“Last year was the first year we did it,” Arrowsmith says. “We made over $1,000, and it was busy and people were super receptive.”
Recruiting climbers for the team was easy this year, she adds.
“We’ve got a lot of new people who are super keen. It’s nice because the two new people we got last year are doing it — Jen and Mark — they joined us last year and they’re keen to go again,” she says.
She says the real driving force behind getting Hope firefighters involved is DeSorcy, who won’t be doing the climb this year but has emceed in the past.
For those unable to get to the fundraising night at the Hope Legion, there is an online donation page at www.stairclimb.ca. A search option allows donors to look for a participant or team name.
On their page, they explain the urgent need for funding.
“So many of us have been impacted by lung disease, either personally, or through those we love. We are challenging our lungs for those that simply cannot. The money we raise will support the BC Lung Association’s efforts in air quality and tobacco prevention initiatives, patient support programs and lung health medical research. We all breathe the air. The fight belongs to all of us.”
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