BY JULIA WADE
Auckland’s Sky Tower will soon be echoing with the heavy fall of thousands of booted footsteps as the 328 metre structure and it’s spiral staircase becomes the racetrack for a stamina-challenging fundraiser.
Come May 18, one thousand volunteer firefighters – including eight commendable locals – will enter the spired building for the 14th annual Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge. Participants are willing to lug 25kg of firefighting gear up the 51 flights, taking approximately 1100 steps to reach the summit of the southern hemisphere’s tallest building, in order to raise money for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand (LBC).
Mangawhai Volunteer Fire Brigade (MVFB) members, aged from early 20s to ‘a young mid-50s’, have been training for the challenge since last year says team captain and Kaipara District Council employee Max Stevenson.
“We’ve squeezed in an extra three hours a week in between jobs, family and volunteering for the brigade to train. There’s three of us who work for the council – Matt Williams, Dave Buttenshaw and myself – and they have been very supportive of us with training,” he says. “We’ve also been donated a treadmill by Patrick Cullinan and have been running it at Mangawhai’s Saturday markets to raise money.”
For some firefighters 2019’s stair run will be their second and third experience, and for all participants their commitment to the challenge stems from the wide reach of cancer with most knowing someone who has had a brush with the disease Stevenson says.
“My sister was diagnosed last year, has gone through treatment and is now thankfully in remission,” he says. “Like a lot of people touched by cancer, we’re all just trying to give back.”
Six New Zealanders – children and adults – are diagnosed every day with a blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma. Firefighters from New Zealand and overseas including the US, Australia, South America and Europe sign up for the worthy Sky Tower challenge, which was created in 2005. The event consistently raises over $1million for LBC (which receives no government funding) providing funds to forward research of the disease and help with personalised care, family assistance and run support groups.
Want to sponsor Mangawhai’s volunteer firefighters? Visit firefightersclimb.org.nz
Impressing the crowds at Mangawhai Tavern’s Easter market, firefighters pumped the treadmill in full kit to raise funds and awareness of the coming stair climb. Pictured from left, Max Stevenson, Saoirse Nesbit, Neil Mcinnes, with Kaitlin Bowmar from Wellsford volunteer brigade having a run, Phil Nesbit and Matthew Williams. Absent are Tony Mulqueen, Stacey Blackler and David Buttenshaw.