Local firefighters raise money for cancer research | Editorial

In the last two weeks, firefighters from both San Juan and Orcas have announced their intention to participate in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s 29th annual Firefighter Stairclimb on March 8.

The LLS Firefighter Stairclimb is the world’s largest on-air stair climb competition and annual fundraiser held at the tallest building in Seattle — the Columbia Center. More than 2,000 career, volunteer, or retired firefighters climb up the second tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi in full turnout gear weighing more than 60 pounds. The participants ascend 69 flights — a total of 1,356 steps and 788 feet of vertical elevation gain.

An estimated 1,399,180 people in the United States are living with, or are in remission from leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma, according to the LLS. This event is the largest firefighter stairclimb in the world and draws participants from fire departments across the globe. Registration for 2019 sold out in 14 minutes.

This year, Team Orcas is climbing in honor of Orcas Island Fire and Rescue Commissioner Jim Helminski. Helminski moved to Orcas with his wife Teresa Patrick after a successful 36-year career in law enforcement — 27 of those years working for the United States Secret Service — up until his retirement in 2015 from the position of Deputy Assistant Director of the Secret Service. Helminski was diagnosed with leukemia last year; he’s currently responding well to stem-cell transplant therapy, according to a press release from the department.

Orcas firefighters climbing this year are Kasey Jo Wrigley; Kat Barnard; Will Marlow; Mac McCorison; Tony Simpson; and Caleb Weichert.

San Juan Island Fire participates in the LLS fundraising climb in honor of former San Juan Island Fire District 3 Commissioner John Jensen, who successfully battled multiple myeloma. Jensen served as a Fire Commissioner for 18 years.

“His strength and courage through his battle is an inspiration to us all,” the department said in a press release. This year’s climbers are lieutenants Michael Henderson, Gilbert Venegas and firefighters Michelangelo von Dassow and Brooke Sevier.

On Saturday, Feb. 22, the four San Juan participants geared up and worked out on a stair climber exercise machine at the Friday Harbor Marketplace to draw attention to their cause and garner more donations.

In the last decade, San Juan firefighters have participated in the climb seven times while this is the second year for Orcas. Last year, Lopez and Orcas united to raise a total of $7,942 while San Juan raised $4,097. San Juan firefighters have raised a total of $12,747 in the last 10 years.

As of Monday, Feb. 24, Orcas had raised $9,559 of its $25,000 goal and San Juan $3,067 of its $7,200 goal.

We at your island newspapers encourage our readers to donate to the LLS on behalf of our local teams. We support our local firefighters and thank them for their dedication to the cause.

You can donate to the society on behalf of the Orcas team by visiting https://bit.ly/2T4mm4O and on behalf of the San Juan team by visiting https://bit.ly/32edTjU.

For more information about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, visit https://www.lls.org.