Ashcroft’s Liam and Natalya Chorneychuk came, climbed, and conquered in support of their Bopa – and the 1 in 5.
More than 500 participants – among them more than 300 B.C. firefighters (the biggest firefighter turnout ever) – showed up on the morning of Sunday, Feb. 23 to tackle the BC Lung Association’s 19th annual Climb the Wall event.
Organizers welcomed double last year’s count of firefighters to the 48-storey climb to the top of the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel. Each firefighter competed for the fastest climb time while wearing full firefighting protective gear and carrying more than 50 pounds on their back.
They were joined by some 200 non-firefighter climbers, as well as cheerleaders, fundraisers, and volunteers – many themselves members of the 1 in 5 who contend with breathing problems on a daily basis – who got involved in the fundraising efforts.
Included in the line-up was Team Bopa, compromised of Liam (11) and Natalya (9) Chorneychuk of Ashcroft. The brother and sister duo participated in honour of their Bopa (Grandpa) who passed away from lung cancer a few years ago. Liam is also a member of the 1 in 5, living with asthma.
“I was scared when Bopa was sick. It made me sad that it hurt him to breathe,” says Liam. “He would be so proud of us climbing.”
Not only did Team Bopa climb all 48 storeys twice, they also arrived early to volunteer as spokespeople for the cause, sharing their story with TV reporters at the event.
“Living with asthma is okay because I take my medicine every day and I listen to my doctor,” says Liam. “I try my best to breathe well, but sometimes it is hard for me. I like to exercise and play sports, but I need to always take my medicine because it helps me.”
According to their mom, Carolyn, both Liam and Natalya trained hard in the run-up to the event.
“There aren’t many buildings with stairs in our community, so the kids ran the stairs 25 times up and down in my office building.
“There’s a park by our home, too, where they ran up (and down) the hill 25 times without stopping! My husband Wayne estimates each time they ran to the top was equivalent to two flights of stairs.”
In terms of fundraising in support of the cause, Liam and Natalya shared their story through posters, social media, and a table at Safety Mart. Thanks to all the support they received from family, friends, and Ashcroft community members, Team Bopa racked up an impressive fundraising contribution totalling more $2,130.
The total funds raised at the 2020 event currently sit at $127,000, 50 percent higher than what was achieved in 2019. Additional funds are expected to come in over the next couple of weeks.
“This was a standout year for our Climb the Wall event, in large part thanks to the enthusiasm of our key event partners, chief amongst them B.C.’s firefighting community,” says BC Lung Association CEO Chris Lam. “The sense of community spirit in the room was palpable. I could see hundreds of sweaty, smiling faces around me, all there supporting one another. It was clear that something special was achieved.”
More than 500 people took part in this year’s climb. The fastest firefighter climb time was turned in by Burnaby firefighter Craig Smith, who scaled the 48 flights in 6:05 (the average non-competitive climber time was between 10 and 15 minutes).
The oldest non-competitive climber was 83, and the youngest was three.
Additional event partners include the Vancouver Firefighters’ Charitable Society (official Firefighter Challenge host) and the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel (venue and brunch provider).
To make a donation in support of Liam and Natalya, visit www. stairclimb.ca, click donate, and search for them by name, or by team name: Team Bopa.
Over the past 20 years, participants have raised more than $2,000,000 for the cause, which benefits the 1 in 5 British Columbians affected by a lung or breathing condition, including asthma, COPD, sleep apnea, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and pneumonia.
While treatment exists to control or slow the progress of these and many other lung conditions, few today are curable. Continued research, improved patient support, greater public health education and prevention efforts, and issues advocacy are vital to improving the lives of British Columbians with breathing problems.