Airdronians will be among the nearly 600 firefighters climbing the 1,204 steps of Calgary’s Bow Building May 5 to raise funds for those living with cancer, during the fifth annual Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge.
“I think the bottom line is, everybody knows either a friend or a family member that has been affected by cancer, and donating helps all those families that are affected by cancer,” said Airdronian Philippe Leblanc, who works for the Calgary Fire Department.
According to a press release, the event is the world’s highest-elevation stair climb. Local firefighters will join other Canadians along with American, Australian, Danish and Kiwi firefighters taking part in the event.
“The Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge illuminates the risks firefighters take on a daily basis to save lives in an occupation that exposes them to many cancer-causing situations,” stated the press release. “More broadly, the event will support and bring awareness to anyone impacted by cancer.”
After staying on the sidelines for many years, Leblanc said he was inspired to take part in this year’s event because of personal experiences with cancer.
“Last year, my uncle died of cancer in Quebec, so it was on my mind to participate this year,” Leblanc said. “Recently, the niece of a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer just before her second birthday…when I saw that, I thought to myself, ‘You know, I can’t make a big difference, but if I can make a small difference in any way, I’ll do that.’”
Proceeds from the event will go to Wellspring Calgary, a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 2007 and supports those diagnosed with cancer.
“Wellspring offers information and a comprehensive range of evidence-informed programs and resources free of charge and without referral,” the press release said.
During the event, participants will climb in heats to the top of the Bow building, a height of 775 vertical feet.
Tauren Schroeder, an Airdronian and member of the Calgary Fire Cadet program, will scale the Bow’s steps in a heat beginning at 9:45 a.m., and she hopes to make the ascent in less than 20 minutes. Like LeBlanc, Schroeder is also participating for the first time, and said she was motivated to participate in part because of the example of her father, who works with emergency management groups, and her brother, an EMT.
“When I first applied to the cadet program…it was for the sheer fact that I want to help others,” she said. “I see my dad and my brother helping others. They’re doing things to support people around them, and that’s definitely something I want to do, as well.”
Schroeder said she and her fellow cadets and instructors have been training together by running stairs equivalent to what they’ll climb in the bow.
For his part, Leblanc said he is both nervous and excited for the challenge, and has been preparing by climbing 1,200 steps on a Stairmaster at a local gym while wearing a weighted vest.
“I believe that if everybody just puts their little part into something big, big changes can happen,” he said.As of April 29, Leblanc had raised nearly $400 with the help of friends and family, while Schroeder had raised nearly $600.