Climbing Stairs for Charity
By Master Sgt. Ralph Kapustka, 148th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 07, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Seven firefighters from the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn. participated in the fifth annual Big Climb-Minneapolis, April 5, 2014. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) held the event to raise lifesaving funds for blood cancer research and help patients live better, longer lives.
The climb was held at the Capella Tower and consisted of 47 stories worth of stairs. The stair climb encompassed a full range of people; from the casual walker to those that wanted to "race to the top." Needless to say, since firefighters are all about competition they decided to race to the top. "This was a difficult challenge that was made even more difficult by wearing 60 pounds worth of firefighting gear," said Senior Airman Joel Waters. "We all worked as a team to raise as much money as we could for the event and also motivated each other during the event so we would all complete the climb and not leave an Airman behind."
The 148th firefighters came in third overall, with the top four individual times being averaged for top team honors. Out of 275 climbers the 148th FW had four climbers in the top 20, with Senior Master Sgt. Mark Watczak posting the best time for the 148FW at nine minutes and twenty-seven seconds. Watczak's time was good for fifth overall in the individual competition.
Besides the competition, the primary reason the 148FW firefighters participated was to raise money for a great cause. "The charity did play a big role in our department's participation but I think it played an even bigger part for me," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Brown. "My wife has been battling cancer for four years now and I know the importance and significance of these fundraisers and the public's attention to this disease. My wife is not battling Lymphoma or Leukemia but it is still extremely important to support people and groups that are battling cancer. Cancer should not be a burden carried by one person; it should be carried by many to lighten the load. Needless to say, we have been on an emotional rollercoaster and when I see people donating money and time like this it does nothing but make us feel better due to having such a tremendous support system."
The competition also provided a great way for the firefighters to spend time together and boost morale. "Once we got to the top you can imagine how tired we were but as soon as you got there, teammates were greeting you and helping you take your gear off, giving you water and a congratulatory slap on the back," said Brown. "Plus, it feels great to be able to raise money for such a great cause and really opens your eyes to how many people out there need your help know matter how small or insignificant the gesture seems."
"I have a lot of family and friends that suffer from cancer," said Staff Sgt. Brad Richgels. "This was my way to help raise money for cancer research." The 148 FW fire department raised over $2,100 for the LLS.