Stair challenge close to heart

Donning the kit: Friends Jono Browne, left, and Andy Carter, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2014, will partake in the Firefighter Sky Tower Challenge to raise money and awareness for blood cancer

While most visitors opt to take the elevator when visiting Auckland’s Sky Tower, Queenstown mates Andy Carter and Jono Browne will be climbing its 1103 steps in full firefighting regalia next month to raise money for the Leukaemia and Blood Cancer Foundation (LBC).

The pair are taking part in the 18th annual Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge as part of Squad 51, a select group of non-firefighters who are invited to load up with 25 kilograms of firefighting kit to race up the 51 levels of the tower.

The money raised by participants helps LBC support patients and families affected by blood cancer, and fund research into treatments and cures.

For Carter, the cause sits close to home.

‘‘In 2014, I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia … it was bit of a shock, I was pretty young to be diagnosed with it.’’

Carter says leukaemia diagnoses are slightly unusual in that treatment doesn’t begin immediately — ‘‘it’s kind of a wait-and-see’’, and it wasn’t until 2019 that his body became so compromised treatment was possible.

‘‘So, for my 50th birthday, I got chemotherapy,’’ Carter says with a smile.

It was during his first round of chemo that LBC reached out to him and his family to offer support.

‘‘I hadn’t really been aware of what was available, so it was wonderful they came forward,’’ he says.

Later falling sick during his treatment — ‘‘my body kind of gave up’’ — and ending up in hospital, his wife Jenny, who raised $1000 last year in LBC’s ‘Shave for a Cure’ fundraiser, reached out to the organisation.

‘‘Jenny was worried and they were right there … there’s amazing people through the whole system.’’

Now coming up two years since Carter finished chemo, he says he’s been well, and he’s taking the chance to suit up for the stair challenge as a way of giving back to an organisation that was ‘‘very supportive when I needed them’’.

‘‘Eight people a day are diagnosed with leukaemia or blood cancer … that’s a massive number, and it’s kids as well.

‘‘And what the firefighters do is quite special … a lot of them know people who are in the same situation I was … so I admire the hell out of that,’’ Carter says.

For Browne, SkyCity Queenstown’s general manager, this will be his second run up the tower after he participated in 2017.

‘‘This time around it’s a little bit different because I’ve got to know Andy and know his story … I think the most important thing to me that came out of this story was the support that they [LBC] provide is phenomenal.’’

Carter and Browne agree it’s a privilege to be a part of the challenge and raise money for an organisation reliant on donations.

‘‘This is about the firefighters too, this is their thing and there’s a lot of respect to them, so we’re lucky to be doing what we’re doing … we’re lucky to don the outfit and put the helmet on,’’ Browne says.

The pair have already raised over $4000 of their targeted $10,000 — to donate, visit and

[email protected]

- Advertisement -