Minnesota Fire Department Raises More than $100k to Help Residents with Lung Disease

A suburban Minneapolis fire department is making a big impact on local people who live with lung disease and lung cancer. Golden Valley Fire Department firefighters raised $105,000 for the American Lung Association throughout their 13-year participation in the Fight For Air Climb at U.S. Bank Plaza.

The Golden Valley Fire Department has participated in the Fight for Air Climb every year since its inception. For the Climb, happening on Saturday, February 8, 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, boots and air tank – which can add 50-75 pounds of weight as they tackle 31 floors, 680 steps of the U.S. Bank Plaza.

“Through Golden Valley Fire Department’s dedication, passion and participation in the Fight For Air Climb, we can provide critical local programs to  the more than half-a-million Minnesotans who live with lung disease and lung cancer,” said Missi Arens, executive director for the Lung Association. “Raising more than $100,000 is very hard work and a tremendous milestone. It really speaks to the amazing culture of the Golden Valley Fire Department and the sense of community service that these firefighters possess.” 

The Golden Valley Fire Department currently holds the title of top fundraising team in the fire division.

The Golden Valley Fire Department has 50 paid on-call firefighters, so most of the team fights fires beyond their full-time career. Battalion Chief Ken Bence first heard about the Fight For Air Climb 13 years ago through his job at a health organization. He started a team as a way to build camaraderie within the firefighters, but throughout the years, the Fight For Air Climb became much more personal for Bence.

“When I first started doing the climb, the biggest donations came from my father. The next year, he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and passed away before my second climb. I now carry a photo of him while I am climbing,” he said. “My wife was also diagnosed with adult asthma. For me, those are the things that continue to make me want to do the Fight For Air Climb.”

The Golden Valley Fire Department team raises money to help their community, but they also raise awareness for lung disease in firefighters.

“Aside from various personal connections, I believe that all firefighters have a stake in the air we breathe. In our job as firefighters, we are prone to lung-based diseases, including lung cancer. The more that we can do to support research helps us all,” said Bence.

The Fight For Air Climb is open to all first responders, as well as individuals, friends and family teams, and corporate teams. Each year, the event attracts hundreds of residents and people from across the country who Climb the stairs of U.S. Bank Plaza (31 floors, 680 steps) to raise awareness and money to fight lung disease. Learn more about the Fight For Air Climb and register at FightForAirClimb.org/Minneapolis.

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