Firefighter to climb Seattle skyscraper for cancer research
HOUMA, La. (AP) — Cancer doesn’t stop, but neither does Nathan Richard.
The longtime Thibodaux volunteer firefighter and award-winning chef is gearing up to join 2,000 fellow firefighters from around the world March 8 to climb Seattle’s tallest skyscraper to raise money for blood-related cancers.
“You see these kids suffering from blood cancer and it kind of makes you think,” the 38-year-old Thibodaux resident said. “It gives you a different perspective.”
Richard began participating in stair climbs about four years ago as a way to raise money for various causes and to honor fallen firefighters and first responders. He’s ascended other buildings including the Freedom Tower in New York.
So far Richard has raised about $15,000 of his $20,000 goal for the Seattle climb.
The stair climb in Seattle is the world’s largest competition of its kind. The annual fundraiser generates money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which has raised over $20 million in the ongoing fight against blood cancer.
This year marks Richard’s third Seattle stair climb. Last year he climbed in honor of New Iberia Parish firefighter Seth Champagne, who was diagnosed with leukemia.
Champagne announced this year he would be joining Richard in Seattle.
“In 2019, another firefighter made this climb in my name and I feel the need after putting the flames out of my own inferno the desire to conquer this challenge for myself and for the assistance of others who may not have been able to extinguishers their own fire,” Champagne said.
All 2,000 participants are career, volunteer or retired firefighters who scale 1,356 steps and 69 flights of stairs to raise both money and awareness of blood-related cancers.
The 788-foot Columbia Center is the second-tallest building west of the Mississippi River.
Richard became inspired in his fight against leukemia and lymphoma after contracting a blood clot in his leg in 2015.
“I made a promise to myself to do anything I could to help fight blood-related diseases like cancer,” he said. “So once my wife told me about this I had to start doing it.”
To prep for the Seattle climb, Richard regularly scales the Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department training tower lugging about 75 pounds of equipment like a helmet, gear and oxygen bottles. Richard also adds 50 pounds of extra weight during training to help increase his endurance.
“After a while your body gets used to it, so you’ve got to push yourself a little harder,” Richard said. “What keeps me going is all the line-of-duty deaths of police, firefighters and first responders. You get to the top with all your buddies who had the same mission that you had. When my wife and I climbed the World Trade Center Freedom Tower we saw all these wounded warriors who had no legs but were able to make it up there. It really makes you think.”
Cancer research is especially important for firefighters because they face a 9-percent increase in cancer diagnoses compared to the general population, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Because cancer does not discriminate, fighting the disease unites people from all walks of life, Richard said.
Not everyone has to wear a hundred pounds of gear and climb stairs to make a difference, he said.
“Just find something that you’re good at,” he said. “Donate to the cause or get involved in the community. As long as you’re doing good that’s all that matters.”