This was a short story written leading up to the 2013 Scott Firefighter Stair Climb in Seattle to talk a little more about why I climb and what I am fighting for.
“WEARING MY LEAVES WITH PRIDE, WHY MY HELMET IS SCARLET AND GRAY.” – Grab a tea, this will take a few minutes.
What an amazing year it has been leading up to the 22nd annual Scott Firefighter Stair Climb in Seattle. This is my seventh year competing at the event and every year it just means that much more to be involved with something so large that oozes with brotherhood. The training to get here has been hard and it has been a long journey that has involved a lot of people because I truly did not get here on my own.
I pause as I often do throughout my training to look back and reflect on the journey. My journey to the climb didn’t start in November with training, it didn’t start last year at the climb, nor when I wanted to compete in my first climb. Losing the weight and becoming firefighter fit was a huge part of getting me to where I am today 5’8”, 160, and ten inches off the waist, but that wasn’t it. Choices made, people in my life, directions, jobs, schools, networking, brotherhood, and many things were all a part of it, but there was more.
Something much larger got me to where I am today and I feel carved in stone what I would be doing in life. Most people can’t exactly pinpoint it down to the day, but I have it down to the day and almost the hour that all solidified. On the morning of Saturday, December 13, 1986 my sister and I were to have Christmas play practice at church in Ashland. My mom who wasn’t feeling well at the time decided to make the trip with us and see her doctor while we were at practice. When the practice was done and the church almost empty, my parents never came back to get us. When practice was over there were no parents waiting for us, and it was before the time of cellphones and a text to say we’re late. I remember the sound of the telephone on the wall at the church, the words that were spoke by the pastor that “your mom is sick and we need to go to the hospital to see her.” My grandparents were there, dad was there, the pastor was there, my sister was there, but my mom was not there. Words like “bled out, cyst, rupture, died, resuscitating, blood transfusions, and many more stuck in my head that day, but the one that changed all of our lives and gave me the path that I would take later in life was different. LEUKEMIA. One word that in those days that didn’t really have a good ending.
People, we were all put on this planet for a reason and a specific calling, find your reason. Maybe you haven’t seen your moment in life yet where destiny has revealed itself, or maybe you have missed it. Whatever your calling, find it, live it, and give it your all. Remember, ultimately we are here doing what we are doing because someone else sacrificed their time, their hard work, their effects, and in some cases paid the ultimate price. I will never be able to truly pay back the ER staff at Ashland Samaritan, the doctors at The Ohio State University Medical Center, researchers, interns, nurses, social workers, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the anonymous donor from the Netherlands, and many charitable organizations for what they did to help my family, but I can do something else. We can ALL do something.
It wasn’t until later in life that I heard the words “pay it forward” and “paying forward” in my love of Ohio State and following sports and learning more about the great Woody Hayes. It wasn’t the first time that he talked about paying forward, but it was unfortunately one of his last as he passed away in the following year. Oh the irony that Coach Hayes would give the commencement speech at The Ohio State University in 1986, the same institution whose hospital would treat my mother and ultimately bring her CURE for Leukemia. Coach Hayes again encouraged the mentality of paying forward and that the graduates should, “take that attitude toward life, because so seldom can we pay it back.” He went on to teach several other life lessons in his commencement speech that spring day and give examples of paying forward, but also many lessons from football that also pertain to life. It was four years almost to the day that someone else followed the mantra of “paying it forward” by donating lifesaving bone marrow that cured my mother with little time to spare on March 14, 1990. Unrelated and not a perfect match, it was a first for OSU and is a part of their history; much like this is a part of my history.
I BLEED SCARLET AND GRAY
Paying forward is no less important today and proudly wearing my Ohio State helmet is no gimmick. On Sunday, March 10, 2013 I will climb my seventh time to help battle Leukemia and Lymphoma, this time proudly showing my scarlet and gray colors. My Buckeye themed helmet isn’t just because I am out there representing Ohio at the event, but also the historic ties of why I am there and how much The Ohio State University and their medical staff have done for my family.
“But for Ohio State and the people, research, and treatment, my mother would not have beaten Leukemia.”
On the helmet are currently six Buckeye leaves representing the six years to this point that I have competed in the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb. Those leaves are in honor or memory of the following people; Peggy Bostic, Pam Smith, Matthew Lambert, Mike Huffenberger, Luke Benner, and Kari Pennell. After finishing the climb Sunday the seventh leaf will be affixed to the helmet and I will begin preparing for the next climb.
I wear my gear, my scarlet and gray, my department, and my leaves with pride knowing that with every step I am paying forward.
HOW CAN YOU HELP
Every financial donation made goes directly to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; I accept no assistance in getting there. I have had handfuls of change to several hundred dollars donated by a single person, every penny matters and I truly mean it