Success at Sky Tower

Scott Stapleton

Members of Te Awamutu Volunteer Fire Bigade’s 2023 Firefighter Sky Tower Challenge team have returned home having reached new heights at the event.

Not only did the group fundraise what’s thought to be its biggest total in the brigade’s 18-year association with the climb – receiving $25,814 in donations – but 10 members of the 19-person team also achieved top 10 placings in their respective divisions.

Team captain Lisa Atkinson – after completing what was her second challenge event – praised “each and every one” of the team, telling The News everyone was “pretty stoked” with how the 2023 climb – held last Saturday – went.

The challenge, now in its 19th consecutive year, sees teams racing 328m up Auckland Sky Tower’s 51 flights of stairs – or 1103 individual steps – in full firefighting kit weighing 25kg to raise funds, and awareness for, Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

Some of the Te Awamutu team at the 2023 Firefighter Sky Tower Challenge last Saturday. From left to right, Rob Willey, Dave Shaw, Glenn Anderson, Scott Stapleton and Helen Wilkes.

The organisation supports patients and their families living with a blood cancer, including leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma or a related blood condition.

“I’m just grateful,” Lisa said. “Grateful to the public for being so supportive of our fundraising efforts, and grateful to every single one of our brigade members.

“Whether they were part of the challenge team this year – or they stayed behind on duty in town while we were in Auckland – each one played a part in making our climb a possibility, and a success.

“Of course, the main reason we are there is to support what is a wonderful cause, which we’re completely behind. A lot of our brigade members know people who have unfortunately had to face leukaemia.

“As I reflect on the day, I can’t help but think how grateful I am too that our brigade is full of such great people.”

There were some stand out performers on the day.

“When you get a bunch of sporty, athletic, people together, you can’t help but have a level of friendly competition too,” she said.

Six Te Awamutu team members also took on what’s called the Firefighter of Steel challenge, adding nearly 10 flights of stairs to their climb.

Dave Shaw climbed those 60 floors and was awarded a bronze medal for third place in the men’s masters division in a time of 15 minutes, 53 seconds.

Anna Alexander won a bronze medal for third in the women’s masters donned division, climbing 51 flights of stairs in 19 minutes, 44 seconds.

Donned categories mean the competitor is wearing, firefighting gear wise, only a breathing pack.

Lisa was runner up in the women’s masters donned division, climbing 51 flights of stairs in 17 minutes, 11 seconds.

Two members of the Pirongia Rural Fire Brigade – Jake Zeuren and Jodi Reymer – also joined the Te Awamutu team.

Jodi was runner up in the open women’s donned category, climbing 51 flights of stairs in 16 minutes, 20 seconds.

Senior firefighter, Rob Willey, was all smiles mid-challenge.

Meanwhile, Kelly Bennetto climbed the Sky Tower 11 minutes faster in 2023 than she did last year.

The youngest Te Awamutu team member in 2023 was 16-year-old first-time climber Addy Mark, who “did so well”, Lisa said.

“It really was heaps of fun and we were all on a bit of a high as we shared a celebratory dinner together on Saturday night.”

Lisa made special mention of chief fire officer Ian Campbell and station officer Danny Smith.

In his 14th challenge climb, Danny placed fourth in the open men’s division of the 60-floor Firefighter of Steel challenge, in a time of 15 minutes, six seconds.

“We’re surrounded by a culture of wonderful support, and leadership which works endlessly and tirelessly, and that, honesty, is to such a large degree what makes days like Saturday’s climb possible,” Lisa said.

This year, about 1000 firefighters from around New Zealand – and some from Australia – were part of the challenge.

About $1.48 million was collectively raised.

Lisa said initial thoughts have already turned towards preparations for the 2024 challenge.


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