Fight for air, fight cancer

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BENNINGTON — Step by step, a total of 82 climbers ascended the Bennington Battle Monument on Saturday as part of the annual "Fight for Air Climb."

For the past nine years, the American Lung Association's Vermont chapter has been hosting the stair climb event at the monument to raise money for the organization. The generated funds help support cancer research, patient education, and advocacy.

According to Kirsten Roberts, development coordinator for the American Lung Association Northeast, the organization had a goal of raising $40,000. She estimated that the group was halfway to its goal on Saturday morning and that it will be accepting donations until the end of September.

Those who participated had the option to either register as a team or individually. A minimum donation of $100 was required for each team or individual climber.

Roberts described the Fight for Air climb as "all encompassing." Some people walked, while others ran, making it a goal to climb up the 412 steps in a certain amount of time.

At the base of the 306-foot- tall monument, teams and individuals lined up with signature race bibs placed on their person. Roberts explained that each bib had a chip in it, to register when somebody went through the starting point and at the observation deck at the top, that recorded peoples' times. Each climber was sent up the stairs at one minute intervals.

At the observation deck, participants were greeted by volunteers, fellow partakers, and friends. Roberts said that they encourage people to take a moment at the top of the monument to reflect on the way they're feeling to get a better understanding of the way people with lung disease and other related impairments feel on a daily basis.

"This is my fourth year doing the climb," said Sandy Latif, who participated with Revolution Racquet and Fitness Club. "It's always a challenge and the monument always feels taller."

Latif was happy to participate and to help support the American Lung Association. She and her other team members, including the club's owners, were dressed in bright orange.

Bennington Rural Fire Department, Shaftsbury Fire Department, and the Bennington Village Fire Department had members dressed from head to toe in firefighting equipment trek up the monument. A total of 25 firefighters attended, some from New York and the intermediate area - even two from Canada made the climb.

Roberts said that the group places emphasis on the firefighters participating - not only because of what they do for the community - but because they are exposed to harmful contaminants in the air when they go on call.

"It was about the same as going into a structure fire," said Jeff Vickers, a member of Bennington Village Fire Department.

"It was great," said Jim Wright, also a member of the department. "Everyone should try it once."

Vickers estimated they carried a total of about 50 pounds as they ascended the building. Tables were set up around the event of local sponsors who helped support the event, many of which returned from previous years. The Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU), RGS Energy Company, the Bennington Rescue Squad, Let's Grow Kids, were some of the 2017 event sponsors.

The Bennington Fight for Air Climb is one of the 51 stair climbs hosted by the organization across the country. Most of its sister climbs take place in buildings and other prominent skyscrapers across the country. These climbs have been taking place for over a decade and have raised over $40 million.

The monument's climb is unique as it is the only climb that takes place in a historic site, Roberts said.

Reach the Bennington Banner at news@benningtonbanner.com.


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