8 a.m. Saturday
Oklahoma Chase Tower
100 N. Broadway
Climbing stairs isn't easy.
With each flight, the breath becomes faster, harder to suck in. The chest tightens and sweat trickles down with each labored step.
After 36 flights, taken at a brisk pace, a person may have an idea of how people with cystic fibrosis feel every second of every day.
"Those with cystic fibrosis lose 2 percent of lung function every year," said Celia Palmer, executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Sooner Chapter. "The average life expectancy is age 37, but we're making great strides and working on medications that can add decades to life."
With this optimism in mind, the local group asks citizens to "Climb for Life" on Saturday. Participants are challenged to raise at least $150 for the foundation and also climb the 36 flights of stairs in downtown's Oklahoma Chase Tower.
"This is actually a fitness event designed to raise money for cystic fibrosis," Palmer said. "For those interested in running in charity events, this offers something different from pounding the pavement."
Registration beings at 8 a.m., with the event at 8:30 a.m. A Survivor Breakfast on the 36th floor's Petroleum Club follows the climb.
"This is a new event for our chapter. We did a similar challenge earlier this year at the (University of Oklahoma) stadium, and we had about 177 participants," Palmer said.
The "race" is timed in numerous age categories.
"If you get pooped, you can abort the mission and take the elevator to the top and be proud of the number of flights you did accomplish," Palmer said. "It's about raising funds for a cause that claims so many lives."
According to the foundation, approximately 30,000 Americans have the disease. In addition, more than 10 million Americans are carriers of the gene. Although they may not have symptoms, the disorder can manifest in children or grandchildren.
Midwest City firefighter Ryan Ashley will be among those climbing, but in his full gear.
"My younger brother by two years is a cystic fibrosis patient," he said. "I'm sure it's going to be pretty tough to climb with the bunker gear on, but when you are doing it for a reason, you can put the pain aside, because you know you are doing it for something important."
Ashley said his family and other firefighters will also participate.
"Cystic fibrosis makes it hard to breathe, but my little brother got a baseball scholarship to college," he said. "He's willing to stare it in the face and fight it, and he doesn't let it deter him."
For more information, call 787-0056 or visit www.ccf.org. "Heide Brandes
above Jackie Miller. Photo/Dennis Griffin