Helping others comes naturally to Zach Lapuh. He’s been a Cleveland Fire Department firefighter for five years, and is one of 40 men from the department who participate in the Fight for Air Climb. The nationwide stairclimbing fundraiser, which the team helped raise $100,000 for this year, is organized by the American Lung Association. Funds raised benefit research for lung disease, which firefighters are more susceptible to. Lapuh’s hard work and dedication brought him a nice reward this year: his photo in the inaugural American Lung Association’s 2021 Fight for Air Climb Firefighter Calendar.We’re one of the biggest departments in the state. The Key Tower is the biggest building in the city, so it’s 1,400 steps, almost 60 floors. It takes people around a half hour to climb it. Usually a lot of us train using a stair machine or actually going out and running stairs in the months before the climb. Every fireman does the climb in full turnout gear, an air pack on their back and a helmet. It’s the same exact gear we would wear at work, it weighs anywhere from 60-70 pounds.
Originally, I didn’t even know that this existed. And then [team captain Jeff Lash] broke it down for me and why he did it: His father was actually a Cleveland fireman who ended up dying from lung cancer. My grandfather died from lung cancer, too. It all kind of clicked and made sense, and I knew what their cause was and what the money went towards. I’m glad that [the calendar] is going to be all across the country. I think it’s really great to set that off. I hope it raises a lot of money.
It’ll mean a lot more this year because everybody has to be a lot more careful, there’s a lot more people that are sick, especially with respiratory diseases. It’s tougher than a lot of people think. We’re happy that Jeff gets us all out there and gets us all going. We raise a lot of money. It’s for a great cause, we’re all really happy to do it. — as told to Kellie Innes
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