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Kent firefighters to climb skyscraper stairs for leukemia fundraiser

Kent firefighter Jessi Nemens prepares to climb the Columbia Center skyscraper in Seattle to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. - COURTESY PHOTO
Kent firefighter Jessi Nemens prepares to climb the Columbia Center skyscraper in Seattle to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO

Kent firefighter Art Weichbrodt will have plenty of motivation when he runs up 69 flights of stairs at the Columbia Center skyscraper in Seattle in full fire gear and a self contained breathing apparatus.

The 22nd annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb race is a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Weichbrodt and 13 other Kent Fire Department Regional Fire Authority members will compete in the March 10 event. Climb, conquer and cure is the fundraising theme.

"I'm competitive and like the challenge physically and I have friends whose children are affected by leukemia," Weichbrodt said. "One lost a daughter and the other friend has a child with leukemia."

Each firefighter will race up 1,311 steps on 69 flights of stairs for an elevation gain of 788 feet to the Columbia Center's observation deck. A total of 1,552 firefighters from 281 departments participated last year and raised a record $1.2 million for blood-cancer research and patient services.

Kent firefighters raised more than $7,000 last year.

"Our goal this year is $10,000," Weichbrodt said.

As part of the effort to reach that goal, firefighters will appear from 4-6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Kent Station shopping mall fountain stage. Firefighters will rotate climbing a stair machine during the two hours as they seek donations. There also will be a poster for people to sign if they have a name of someone they want the firefighters to climb for. Firefighters will be in gear and a fire truck is expected to be on site part of the time to help draw attention to the event.

"This is the first time we've had a fundraiser as a group," said Weichbrodt, in his 14th year with the Kent Fire Department. "Kent Station has been extremely supportive. It's a great venue."

The Kent Firefighters Foundation donated $1,400 to give the fundraising effort a big start. People who cannot make the Kent Station event may donate online at www.llswa.org/site/TR/Events/FirefighterStairclimb?team_id=48277&pg=team&fr_id=1280.

Weichbrodt has confidence the firefighters can reach their fundraising goal.

"We'll do the best we can," he said.

This marks the second year Weichbrodt has competed in the Firefighter Stairclimb. He finished in 16 minutes, 44 seconds last year.

"It's one of the hardest physical efforts I've done," said Weichbrodt, who is a competitive bicyclist.

Kent firefighter Jessi Nemens will compete for the third consecutive year. She placed sixth last year out of 120 women with a time of 17:26. Georgia Daniels of Graham Fire and Rescue won the woman's race in 14:49. Andrew Drobeck, of Missoula, Mont., won the men's race in 10:39.

A few of the Kent firefighters will compete this year for the first time as the department upped its participation by about six members compared to last year to help raise money to fight leukemia.

The mission of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Since its founding in 1949, the society has invested more than $550 million for research specifically targeting blood cancers. There are more than 340 funded researchers, including Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington Medical Center.

For more information about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, go to http://www.lls.org.

What: Firefighter Stairclimb leukemia fundraiser

Who: Kent firefighters

When: 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2

Where: Kent Station shopping mall fountain stage

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