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Kingston firefighter: Sunday’s Stairclimb is personal
KINGSTON — As a young child, North Kitsap Fire & Rescue firefighter Jasper Stenstrom suffered some irregularities with his blood cells.
After being checked out, and escaping a serious cancer scare, Stenstrom hasn’t forgotten what that felt like. He is using his own brush with cancer as motivation to participate in what he calls “the most physically-demanding” event of his life.
The Scott Firefighter Stairclimb (www.FirefighterStairclimb.org), a benefit for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, takes place Sunday at the Columbia Tower in Seattle.
In June 2011, Stenstrom’s mission became even more personal when his cousin Denton Holmgren was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After undergoing years of treatment, Holmgren’s health is looking good, and he is on-track to graduate high school in June.
In addition, Stenstrom’s friend’s son, Ethan Goozovat, 6, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December. Caught in its early stages, Ethan has been going through rigorous cycles of chemotherapy and is set for his final scan in March.
Last month, Stenstrom held a local fundraiser at Kingston Albertson’s, where he climbed 69 flights on the Stairmaster in 12 minutes. Ethan joined in, and hopped on with Stenstrom and helped push him along. The team was able to raise $1,409 that day alone.
“I wear the uniform, but they’re the real heroes,” Stenstrom said of Ethan and Holmgren. This year Stenstrom hopes to complete the climb in less than 14 minutes, with Ethan and Holmgren waiting for him at the top.
Of North Kitsap firefighters, Stenstrom is currently one of the top 10 fundraisers, with nearly $4,000 raised thus far.
This year is the 22nd annual climb and is one of the world’s most physically challenging competitions. Dressed in 50 pounds of bunker gear — including helmet, fireproof coat and pants, boots, breathing apparatus and air tanks used to fight fires — 1,550 men and women will climb 69 flights of stairs. That’s 788 feet of vertical elevation and 1,311 steps.
Nearly 300 fire departments from 21 states and five countries, including Canada, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand, will participate this year. Because of space limitation on site, friends and family are asked to cheer on from the Seattle Marriott Waterfront Hotel, 2100 Alaskan Way.
In 2012, the event raised a record $1.2 million for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and set another record. Missoula City Fire’s Andrew Drobeck broke the world firefighter stair climbing record, climbing to top in 10 minutes, 38.2 seconds in full firefighter gear. Drobeck will be returning this year to defend his title. On average, top racers finish in as little as eleven minutes, while the average participant takes from 20 to 30 minutes to finish.
To make a donation, visit www.firefighterstairclimb.org.