With hundreds of firefighters gathering all in one place, you’d think there was a five-alarm blaze burning. Firefighters from all across Quebec came together on Sunday to battle a different foe: muscular dystrophy. It’s a disease that sees the deterioration of muscles over time.
“It’s important for us to help these kids,” said Montreal Fire Department Operations Chief Martin Guilbault, one of the organizers of the event.
The High Rise Challenge is in its 21st year. This year was the first time the challenge took place at the Deloitte Tower.
Firefighters and other emergency service personnel raise money for muscular dystrophy but donning their gear and walking up 26 floors to the top. Many teams walk up carrying children who live with the disease along with them.
“We try to get people from fire departments, paramedics, police officers, everyone who works in emergency services are asked to come participate,” Guilbault told Global News.
Each participant does the 26 floors up and down twice, adding up to 1,188 stairs.
Dozens of groups came from every corner of the province, some crews traveling hundreds of kilometres to join.
Alfred Breton-Paré came from Quebec City. He completed the challenge in a full firefighting suit but is not a firefighter.
“They named me an honorary firefighter,” he explained. His local fire department recognized him for having joined the challenge for seven straight years.
He comes for his 11-year-old son, Eloi.
“It’s difficult news, having your son diagnosed with a neuro-muscular disorder which is degenerative, and there is no cure,” he told Global News.
Though Eloi often has trouble with stairs, he had no trouble as his father and the firefighters carried him to the top of the skyscraper.
“Every year, we put him in a chair and grab him, and put him on top of the building. I helped carry him along the way,” said Breton-Paré.
Muscular Dystrophy Canada has been working with firefighters for over 60 years.
“It is truly amazing the firefighter support we have,” said Pamela Musgrave, who works with firefighters on behalf of the organization. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do for families.”
She said across the country, firefighters raise $3.2 million for Muscular Dystrophy Canada each year.
In Montreal, they say they’ll keep climbing the stairs year after year until a cure is found.