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.
If you would like to donate to this worthy cause or support your local brigade, please go to https://firefightersclimb.org.nz/