Firefighters make the climb to aid stem cell research

Chatham-Kent Professional Firefighters make a donation to the Canadian Blood Services on August 13, 2019. (Photo by Allanah Wills)

Funding for stem cell research will be getting a boost thanks to firefighters in Chatham-Kent.

On Tuesday afternoon, several members of the CK Professional Firefighters Association Local 486 presented a $2,388 cheque to the Canadian Blood Services to go towards stem cell research.

The money was raised earlier in the year, leading up to the 9/11 Firefighter Memorial Stair Climb on May 4 where six firefighters from the local association travelled to New York City to climb 80 flights of stairs of the Three World Trade Center.  The event is held to honour the firefighters who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

Firefighter John Benoit said it was a tough climb, but worth it in the end.

“It was very, very tiring,” he said. “It was really hot when you get 400 people walking up an enclosed stairwell with no air circulation and you’re wearing about 75 pounds of gear. But once you get to the top it’s really really rewarding. Everyone knows you’re doing it for the people that died that day, not for us.”

Funds were raised through various local initiatives including a skating fundraiser and boot drive. Half the money that they raised went to the 9/11 Memorial, while the other half went to the Canadian Blood Services in recognition of Jocelyn McGlynn, a 21-year-old Chatham woman who was diagnosed in 2018 with acute myelomonocytic leukemia and recently received a stem cell transplant.

Benoit said they wanted to make sure they kept some of the money in the community and added that McGlynn’s story was one that stood out to them.

“We always like to keep some money locally… and this was just a good cause,” he said. “Being that Jocelyn is a 21-year-old with leukemia, it’s a pretty big type of cancer in children and adolescents, it’s one of the most common types. So it just helps out, maybe get a little more stem cell research, try and find a cure.”

McGlynn was able to find a perfect stem cell match and received a transplant in February 2019. One of her most recent biopsies in April showed some good news — she is 98-100 per cent donor and there is no trace of residual disease. McGlynn will return to Western University this fall to continue her studies in medical sciences. She said it was an honour to watch the firefighters association raise the money in her recognition.

“Knowing that this was going on in a very scary time in my life, it made me feel stronger and it made me feel like there’s hope for people who are receiving this gift,” said McGlynn. “Not only will it impact people in the short term, it will impact people in the long term.”