Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Leukaemia and Blood Cancer NZ
May 18th is a special day for 1000 firefighters gathering at the base of the Sky Tower for the 15th anniversary of the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge – a fundraising event to support Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand (LBC).
Photographs of cancer survivors and those who have passed, decorate firefighters helmets and the walls of the sky tower as they run up 51 flights of stairs in the name of charity. Families watching are clutching photos of loved ones affected by cancer, as they cheer on the firefighters.
“The photos tug at your heartstrings as you pass them one by one, going up the tower. It’s an emotional day, and we are pushed to our limits physically. It’s intense running up 1,103 stairs wearing breathing apparatus and 25kgs worth of firefighting kit,” says Tony Scott (Scottie) who is the firefighter organising and participating in this event since it began.
Paul Austin and his fire service team from Marsden 22 Refinery will be carrying a photo of Florence London, a four-year-old girl with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Paul met a friend of Florence’s family by chance in a park, and he has decided to dedicate the Sky Tower climb to her. Florence is currently undergoing treatment at Starship hospital.
Norman Bradshaw, a firefighter from Ellerslie Fire station, is a blood cancer survivor and is also competing in the event.
“It is an opportunity to show my gratitude to the amazing people at Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand who supported me when I needed it. It’s incredible to play a part in raising money in the search to find a cure for blood cancer,” says Norman.
Other ways fundraising from this event helps LBC is by providing emotional and practical support, education and patient advocacy.
The event has 10% of New Zealand’s fire service participating. The actual challenge starts when registrations open, this year the event sold out in 32 minutes with 200 on the waiting list.
Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge started from humble beginnings. In the early days, 88 firefighters fundraised $17,500. This year it’s 1000 firefighters and today they conquered the one million dollar fundraising target. Participants in 2019 include 38 international firefighters from USA, Croatia, Cook Islands and Australia. The youngest firefighter competing is aged 16, and the oldest is 77
“I’m humbled by the passion, effort and generosity of the firefighting community. That generosity has culminated in 7.2 million dollars over the last 15 years to support blood cancer patients. It is the link back to the communities around the country and level of funds raised that make this event special,” says CEO of LBC Peter Fergusson
This event is only made possible thanks to the generosity of SKYCITY and Auckland Airport.
“For 15 years we have partnered with Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand. SKYCITY is proud to continue to support this incredible charity and this fundraising event through our icon, the Sky Tower,” says Brad Burnett, GM – SKYCITY Hotels & Tower.
Ngahihi Bidios from Rotorua is excited to be part of this event, he is a professional international speaker and is dedicating his climb to his friend Darcy who died of blood cancer in 2017. He describes Darcy as a modern-day Maori warrior. “They say you die twice, once when you die physically and once when they mention your name for the last time. Part of my mission here is to make sure Darcy is remember for a long time to come,” says Ngahihi.
The 15th anniversary of the Firefighters Sky Tower Stair Challenge is particularly significant for Adam Ruby from Omakau who has participated in the challenge every year (15 times) since it had started in 2005. Adam has many great memories of the event which is he happy to share.
51 flights of stairs
1,103 individual steps At 328 metres the Sky Tower is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere
About the firefighters
-There are 1000 firefighters competing in this year’s challenge from 187 brigades.
– Firefighters will wear up to 25kgs of kit.
– 38 international firefighters registered this year, coming from Australia (26), USA (4), Croatia (1) and the Cook Islands (8)
-The youngest firefighter competing is aged 16, and the oldest is 77
-There are 179 female and 825 male firefighters competing this year
Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand
Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand (LBC) is the national charity dedicated to supporting patients and their families living with blood cancers and related blood conditions www.leukaemia.org.nz. The organisation receives no government funding.
-Based on Ministry of Health data close to 21,000 people are living with a blood cancer in New Zealand.
-Every day, 6 New Zealanders are diagnosed with a blood cancer. That is one person every four hours.