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11 Islanders to climb Seattle’s Columbia Center, March 8, at Scott Firefighter Stairclimb

Eleven Mercer Island firefighters are set to climb Seattle’s tallest building, the Columbia Center, on Sunday, March 8, in the annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb. The annual climb benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is recognized as the world’s largest individual firefighter competition. A record 1,500 firefighters from across the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Germany are entered in this year’s event.

Mercer Island firefighters competing in the event include Tom Guttu, 23, Matt Kennedy, 29, Scott Logsdon, 31, Mark Givens, 35, Trever Kissel, 35, Ray Austin, 39, Barry Collier, 39, Stephen Mair, 39, Kent Bastrom, 42, Cut Groscost, 42, and Darrel Gordon, 52.

Now in its 18th year, the firefighter climb attracts firefighters from 25 states, three Canadian provinces, New Zealand and Germany. The climb raised over $530,000 in 2008 and has generated more than $2.1 million since its inception in 1992.

Clad in full bunker gear and breathing apparatus, collectively weighing about 50 pounds, firefighters ranging in age from 18 to 63 will sprint-climb 788 feet in vertical elevation (1,311 stairs and 69 stories) from the Fifth Avenue lobby to the 73rd floor observation deck of the 76-story Columbia Center. At 943 feet, about one-and-a-half times the height of Seattle’s Space Needle, the Columbia Center is the tallest building by stories on the West Coast and the 57th tallest building in the world.

During the 2009 climb, LLS will honor 8-year-old Mackenzie Sollars of Tacoma. Sollars was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), a fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells, at age 3 1/2. ALL is the most common form of leukemia among children under 19 years old.

Sponsored by Scott Health & Safety, the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb is open only to firefighters. The climb gets underway at 9 a.m.

The event is the first of two stairclimbs benefiting LLS during March at Seattle’s Columbia Center. On Sunday, March 22, the public can tackle the same Columbia Center steps at the 23rd annual Big Climb, which also benefits LLS.

An estimated 894,543 Americans are living with leukemia, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes. In 2008, an estimated 138,530 people in the United States will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. New cases of leukemia, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma account for 9.6 percent of the 1.4 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the United States this year.

For more information on the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb or to contribute to a local firefighter or firehouse participating in the climb, please visit www.FirefighterStairclimb.org. To register for Big Climb, go to www.BigClimb.org.

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