The Pella Fire Department started climbing in the Fight For Air Climb in honor of Susan Van Gorkom who had a double lung transplant. Susan is the wife of Fire Chief Doug Van Gorkom. But now they climb to honor all firefighters and family members who suffer from lung disease.

Chief Doug Van Gorkom tells KNIA/KRLS News they’ve been motivated by that cause to become one of the top fundraising teams in the state in gathering donations for the American Lung Association.

“It is important to me because of what happened to my wife and what we [all of the firefighters] have watched her go through,” said Chief Van Gorkom. “We also participate because we feel it is a good cause since firefighters can get lung cancer due to what they are exposed to on the job. There are firefighters dealing with lung cancer and lung disease because of that.”

Firefighter Jeremy Scott has participated since the department’s first year of involvement, and says the relay event itself is a unique challenge, as firefighters participate in climbing flights of stairs while wearing full bunker gear.

“It’s very, very hard–it taxes you,” Scott says. “But the thing I’ve realized over the years as I’m climbing, is when you get up there to the 10th, 12th, 15th, 20th story is your lungs are burning, with every step your lungs are burning.”

“It makes you just think about those people fighting for their life and for every breath.”

The Pella Fire Department has nine team members this year and a goal to raise $12,000.

The Fight For Air Climb will take place on April 8 in downtown Des Moines. Hear more on today’s Let’s Talk Pella.

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