Mountain View Man Steps Up

Ken Shitamoto climbs 1,197 stairs in memory of friend who died of lung cancer

(April 1, 2010)


April 1, 2010

It took Ken Shitamoto only 17 minutes to climb the 52 stories to the top of the skyscraper at 555 California St. in San Francisco. But in that short period of time, he and over a thousand other participants raised more than $330,000 -- money whose effects will last far longer than the climb itself.

Shitamoto, a Mountain View resident, climbed the Bank of America building's 1,197 stairs in last Saturday's Fight for Air Climb to raise funds and awareness for the American Lung Association in California's fight against lung cancer.

The annual event, now in its fourth year, draws participants from all over the West Coast, including many firefighters (who challenge themselves by climbing in full fire gear) and athletes of all fitness levels. The breathing difficulties associated with a fast climb up the tower remind participants of the importance of healthy lungs.

Shitamoto, who works at United Biosource Corp. in San Francisco, began participating in the event four years ago in honor of his friend and former colleague, Scott McCammon, who died last year of lung cancer despite never having been a smoker.

"It's important to do something that's for others, especially when so much of what we do is for ourselves only," he said. "Participating in the climb re-centers myself personally and spiritually."

McCammon was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2006, and Shitamoto was inspired to take part when he heard about the event from Genentech, his employer at the time and a sponsor of the event.

Since his first climb, Shitamoto has raised over $43,000 to support the American Lung Association and plans to continue participating in, and fundraising for, the climb in the future.

This year, more than 1,200 participants walked or ran up the 780-foot tower. The event is suitable for people of all fitness levels because of the short distance, and climbers are greeted at the top of the tower with a celebration and a unique view of the city. Fight for Air Climbs are held throughout the year in skyscrapers, stadiums and arenas across the U.S.

To find out more about the Fight for Air Climb, visit the Web site of the American Lung Association at