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Louisville Firefighters Honor Fallen Colleague by Climbing PNC Tower

The Louisville Fire Department signed up for the Fight For Air Climb at PNC Tower for a fun and healthy competition, but after the loss of a colleague to lung cancer, their reason for participating became much more personal.

Seven years ago, Captain Kyle Fekete from the Louisville Fire Department met the local American Lung Association team when they visited the firehouse to share information about the Fight For Air Climb. The team signed up for the Firefighter Challenge, where teams of five or more firefighters compete for the title of the fastest fire department and top fundraising team. The teams are required to climb in full gear – helmet, mask, boots and air tank – which can add 80 – 100 pounds of weight as they tackle 38 floors, 768 steps of PNC Tower.

“It all started as a friendly competition,” said Fekete. “The first year, we all sprinted up the building and had sore throats for a week.”

Over the past seven years, the Louisville Fire Department Fight For Air Climb team has grown to more than 80 members who are spread out across 21 different fire houses. The team has been honored as one of the largest teams, the fastest team and the highest fundraising team in the firefighter division. In total, the team has raised more than $41,000 for the Lung Association.

Then, three years ago, one of their colleagues and Fight For Air Climb teammates, Tim Groft, was diagnosed with lung cancer. In 2017, he competed in the Fight For Air Climb even though he was going through chemotherapy. Unfortunately, a little over a year after his diagnosis, Groft died from the disease.

“Tim had done the event every year. I have worked with two other guys who have died from cancer related to their work as a firefighter as well,” said Fekete. “Most people come out for the competition, but it is also a great way to help fund lung cancer research. This disease is the elephant in the room for firefighters.”

To honor the memory of Groft and another Fight For Air Climb participant, Sally Gettelfinder, the Lung Association developed The Grit & Grace Award. The award is to honor those who inspire the rest of us through their examples of perseverance through adversity.

On February 1, the Louisville Fire Department will again hit the stairs of PNC Tower to have fun, compete with each other and honor their fallen colleagues. More information about the Fight For Air Climb at PNC Tower is available at FightForAirClimb.org/Louisville.

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