I’ve been asked this question a lot over the years at the competitor level, at the ambassador level, as an honored climber, or in the coffee shop. Why do you climb, why are you doing these events? As recent as this last weekend at the Columbus 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb I had firefighters stop and ask, “aren’t you that guy that does the events”? Yep, that’s me. “Why do you do it, where have you been to, what drives you, why participate?” Yep, heard those and a million other questions.
From event to event there may be some differences in the answer that I give, the underlying foundation is the same. First and foremost it is the ability to “Pay Forward”. The iconic football coach Woody Hayes from The Ohio State University, made an amazing commencement speech in 1986 at the University on the topic of paying forward.
Coach Hayes 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.
Paying forward is indeed a huge reason why I climb, why I compete, why I champion for the cause that I choose to champion for. I have the ability to pay forward and make a difference in the lives of others now, and the lives of others in the years to come. What we accomplish will be felt.
How can you not climb and compete? Have you seen some of the causes we do this for? Kids with cancer, adults with other diseases, people dying, suffering, other events that promote helping veterans, helping those with impairments. How can you not get involved with that? I did my first stair climb in 2007 and before the event even started that morning I knew I was addicted and wanted to come back. You hear from a child of their story battling. You hear from a mother or father of the child they no longer have because they were taken too young. Your battle with the stairs or the road race is minute, and then you get to relax and have a normal life. Their battle continues. When I comes down to it, when you see the faces of those that your work affects and how it can positively impact their lives, that is the real deal and gives you the “buy-in”.
I do it because, it’s the right thing. Hey, so many times in our calling we see only the end results, we only see the bad days of peoples lives, we are focused on the task at hand. We get focused on putting out the fire, handling the emergency and our mission is complete. Being involved with many of the events, at least those in the role of a firefighter event lets us give back and put even more positive influence into the world. Some might say “using the office”, I look at it as just another very positive extension of the office and the oath that we take.
Whatever your reason is, stay true to it and be proud. Share your reason, live your reason, and let that reason help encourage others. Every one of these events out there didn’t grow to the level they are at without people sharing their mission, reason, goals, and joys of doing what we do.