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Firefighters raise $7.2 million for cancer charity

A firefighter taking part in last year's event.

May 18 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).

"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.

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 per cent 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 who are on track to conquering a million dollar fundraising target. Participants in 2019 include 38 international firefighters from USA, Croatia, Cook Islands and Australia.

"LBC does not receive government funding. The support of brigades and their communities provides the backbone of our service to those patients who need it most," says Peter.

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.

If you would like to donate to this worthy cause, please go to https://firefightersclimb.org.nz/

Statistics

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 25 kgs 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.

Key facts about blood cancers

- 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.

- Blood cancers combined (leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma) are the fifth most common form of cancer in New Zealand

- Leukaemia is the most common childhood cancer while lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in 15 to 24 year-olds.

- The cause of blood cancers is unknown.

How to support your local brigade or make a donation:

To support your local brigade with a donation go to www.firefightersclimb.org.nz

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