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'Fight for Air Climb' raises money for lung health research, programs

Posted at 2:10 PM, Feb 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-23 20:36:35-05

CLEVELAND — Nearly 600 people got their steps in – and then some – Sunday morning at the 10th Annual Fight for Air Climb. That includes about 60 local firefighters in full gear.

Their goal is to raise money for the American Lung Association’s life-saving lung health research and programs.

Cleveland firefighter Jeff Lash has been doing the climb since it started 10 years ago. His connection to its mission is personal.

“I climb for my father who was also a Cleveland firefighter who died of lung cancer,” Lash said.

According to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, firefighters have a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general population.

“All the research the American Lung Association does helps us in the long run.”

That’s why Lash and his fellow first responders do the climb year after year dressed in 40 pounds worth of gear.

“It's unbelievable. You wouldn't believe how hot you get how fast. You're overheated, probably by the sixth or seventh floor.”

But its not just firefighters who look forward to the climb.

“I have been training very, very hard. I work out three to five days a week,” Catherine Widemire, a participant in this year’s climb, said.

For Widemire, the journey has been a long one. Twelve years ago, she was diagnosed with adult onset asthma.

“Took me many, many years to get it under control.”

Last year, she did the climb for the first time, finishing in just over 15 minutes. This year, she shaved several seconds off that time clocking in at 14 minutes and 40 seconds.

“So I beat my time. I was so excited.”

The fundraising goal for the climb this year is $107,000. Organizers say the final tally will be calculated Monday.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.