The annual Wellspring Calgary Firefighter Stairclimb is going virtual on July 26 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wellspring Calgary first postponed the Firefighter Stairclimb challenge in March, but after being in contact with Alberta Health Services (AHS), and the Calgary Emergency Medical Association, the decision was made to take the fundraising event online.
“We made the decision to move the event, we’re going to restructure it, and we’re going to do an online stairclimb. We’re still developing what it will look like, it’s completely new,” said the Wellspring Calgary Events Manager, Karen O’How.
“What’s wonderful is in this transition, the stairclimb is continually growing, and its Wellsprings largest fundraising event,” she said.
After the decision to bring the fundraising event online was announced, Calgary musicians reached out to O’How wanting to support the event with multiple Facebook concerts.
“This will help bring in some of the lost fundraising,” O’How said.
“We’re really excited about that. We are so grateful and thankful to this group of Calgary artists, and their music is unbelievable,” she said.
Throughout the Facebook concerts, firefighters have written messages thanking the Calgary artists, talking about why they are involved in the annual stairclimb, and why climbing the stairs is important to them.
“The connection has been really unbelieving in these scary times that have really shifted what we do. We have some really wonderful people that are getting together in very different ways, it’s very new for us,” O’How said.
Although nearly 700 firefighters cannot climb the 1,204 stairs at the Bow Tower in full gear this year, O’How has received messages expressing how excited participants are to come back next year for the climb.
“They are here to support, it will be very different, but we’ll make it fun,” O’How said.
“It will be a very different approach, but the basics are still there, the community, the camaraderie with firefighters, and working for a cause that they truly believe in,” she said.
She added, “It’s scary to not have an event that is based on people coming together when we’re not allowed to come together anymore.”
Not only has the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge received continued support from the Calgary Fire Department and firefighters globally, but they have received ongoing support from sponsors.
“Not only do we have great firefighters who support us from all over the world, but we have unbelievable sponsors that said whatever they can do they will. It’s really amazing, and it speaks a lot to this event,” O’How said.
In addition to the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge, Wellspring Calgary launched a Matching Campaign as a result of COVID-19.
“The events that were a key part of fundraising are gone,” O’How said.
“We have had some incredibly generous supporters who have said ‘OK, to help, we are going to help you raise money by matching any donations’, now we have a fund of $125,000,” she said.
The funds raised through the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge and the Matching Campaign are used to run all of the Wellspring programming for cancer patients.
“Businesses are closed, events have been cancelled, but cancer has not been cancelled,” O’How said.
“Our members who have cancer feel isolated a lot, and now they are stuck at home,” she said.
Adding, “Firefighters are more likely to have cancer because of their job, there are 17 cancers that are specific that firefighters are susceptible to.”
Within three days, the Wellspring Calgary online programming team had over 80 programs accessible for members to access while at home.
“We have some unbelievable programming in place that is online, it certainly has moved us into really kicking off the southern Alberta strategy,” O’How said.
“We are now able to show people that the strategy is not unrealistic, Wellspring has programming for people right from Red Deer to the U.S. border,” she said.
“The team is so proficient and amazing, they are getting these programs up and running, that ability to reach more people has been really quickly,” she added. “COVID-19 sucks in so many different ways, but in other ways, it has pushed us to places really quickly that maybe would have taken us longer to get to.”
To view the Firefighter Stairclimb Facebook Concerts, on May 21, and May 25 please visit, YYCStairClimb
For more information on the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge please visit, https://calgarystairclimb.com/.
“We hope to engage people in a very different way, not just firefighters but everybody, and we’ll come back even stronger in 2021,” O’How said.