Two Chestermere women climbed the 1,204 stairs in Calgary’s Bow Building in support of the fifth annual Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge on May 5.
The Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge raises funds for firefighters who are more susceptible to different types of cancers.
“My husband is a firefighter. He lost his mom to a 10-year battle with cancer, I lost my father to a five-year battle with cancer,” said Chestermere resident, personal trainer, and “Challenge the Chief” competitor Sara Berdusco.
“I felt like I had to do it,” she added.
To prepare for the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge, Berdusco trained every morning with a weighted vest and ankle weights.
“I was trying to get comfortable with uncomfortable,” she added. “This was 100 per cent out of my comfort zone.”
Although there have been significant improvements to firefighting gear, cancer affects the firefighting community greater because they are exposed to many toxins, said the Wellspring Executive Director Patti Morris.
“Firefighters are naturally competitive. They have to be able to run upstairs with gear, but they also love to challenge themselves,” Morris said.
The Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge benefits residents in the community who have been impacted by cancer and require non-medical support.
“We speak to the diversity of need that people have after they are trying to pick up the pieces after cancer,” Morris said.
Such as, helping people overcome fear, emotional distress, returning to work, overcoming cognitive challenges, exercise, meditation, nutrition, and young adult programs.
“Although our supports are non-medical and non-clinical, they are important for people’s health and quality of life,” Morris said.
For Langdon resident and Calgary Police Services Constable Ashley Majewski, participating in the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge, and becoming even closer with the first responders she works with daily was very important.
“This year’s event opened up the opportunity for us to join and support our brothers and sisters in the fire department,” Majewski said.
Ensuring Calgary is a safe place to live is a team effort from the Calgary Fire Department, EMS, and Calgary Police Services.
“I believe that extends from not only our daily calls but in supporting our fellow agencies in fundraising events,” Majewski said.
To prepare for the climb, Majewski began stair workouts for the first time. She started without weight, over time she added a 20 lbs vest and then slowly increased by 5 lbs.
“I could be found at McHugh Bluff, sweating it out in work boots and carrying 40 lbs,” she said.
Along with training, Majewski also focused on ensuring she was adequately hydrated and fueling herself with healthy meals.
Despite being nervous about the climb, Majewski was proud to be participating and grateful to have the opportunity to be involved.
While climbing, Majewski thought about the people who have been impacted by cancer and took one step after the other in their honour.
Throughout the years, Morris has seen the investment people have made, and the generosity the community was showed for firefighters.
“People come with such goodwill with offering support,” Morris said.
Morris has a personal connection to the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge as the event began with her uncle and former Calgary Fire Chief Wayne Morris.
“For Wayne, the wellness of his firefighting team was so important. He too died of presumptive cancer, which was attributed to his work,” Morris said.
She added, “This has been such a thrill. Watching the comradery is wonderful. They are a family.”
One moment that sticks out to Morris was after a firefighter had finished the climb, and before the volunteer team could begin his cool down process, he pulled a photo of his mother-in-law who was living with cancer out of his pocket.
“We just all burst into tears. There are beautiful moments like that,” Morris said.
“There is a lot of heart, and a lot of meaning that is beyond the competition.
“It’s so amazing that Chestermere is involved, we want people to take advantage. It’s for everyone,” she said.
For more information about the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge, please visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/YYCStairclimb/.