Bear and Allison Walters are passionate about a few things and they’re not shy about sharing it. The Oakdale couple and owners of Get Fit Oakdale strive to embody the words which adorn the wall of their 120 E. F St. location: Community, Fitness, Nutrition.
On Saturday, Feb. 22 they will once again open their doors with an encouragement, as well as invitation to the community as they host The Heat: LLS Firefighter Fundraiser. The event will be hosted between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and a fee of $25 per person is necessary to participate. One need not be a member to enjoy the workout. Proceeds from the event will go toward a team of firefighters who call GFO home and will travel to Seattle in early March for the LLS Firefighter Stair Climb. Event T-shirts and sweatshirts are also available for purchase, with proceeds benefitting fundraising efforts of participants. Additional information may be found on the Get Fit Oakdale website, as well as on their Social Media.
“It’s a good thing to do. It’s the right thing to do,” Bear Walters said of the event, which they will host for the second year. “If we have the platform and ability to put resources towards a good cause, I think it would be foolish for us not to.”
“When Bear stepped up last year, it was a huge boost,” local fireman and stair climb veteran Doug Rice shared, noting he first became hooked on the annual event as his first visit to the Columbia Center stairs in 2013. “Obviously we’re doing this for the fundraising.”
Rice shared that event rules state that each participant must raise a total of $350 in order to climb. A number which each easily exceeds, yet the need remains not only great, but meaningful to him as well as those on his team. Proceeds benefit the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.
“Firefighters are pretty prone to cancer, so we’ve had multiple members of our organization come down with blood cancer. That sort of started the interest,” Rice shared, “and it’s a challenge.”
The firefighter participants are challenged to climb 69 flights of stairs in full gear “on air” (i.e.: oxygen tank). While participants can take as much as an hour to hour and a half to complete the trek, Rice shared it becomes a personal challenge each year. For him personally the goal remains to maintain a time of 20 minutes or faster.
“I went through two 45 minute bottles in 20 minutes last year,” he said of his “on air” consumption during the climb.
As one climbs the winding staircase they are surrounded by a sea of 2,000 just like them. As they travel they encounter helmets, masks, gear adorned with photos of loved ones as tribute. They also are greeted by photos of those affected by blood cancer at each turn.
“Kind of like cancer, every battle is personal,” he said of the journey up the stairs. “Some take an hour to an hour and a half. It’s an amazing event but I think part of it was just the personal aspect.”
As he shares the personal portion, Rice produced the photo of a young boy, not yet four, who lost his life to leukemia. It was one of his first Captain’s children. As he speaks of the children, he mentions his current Captain’s son Collin French. As a father himself he acknowledges a personal connection to the cause as a father, as well as “brother” to those who have had it touch their lives.
A group which once began with four, will now take to the stairs as a team of 14. Rice shared the additional assistance of GFO as tremendously helpful, as returning to the same sources for donations does start to wear on many.
Walters shared he and wife Allison are always looking for a cause to support and a large number of their members are firefighters.
“If it’s important to them, it’s important to us,” Walters said.