WESTERLY — Twenty-two floors, 348 stairs.
For 10 members of the Dunn's Corners Fire Department, it's a rallying cry as they raise money and prepare to compete in the Rhode Island Fight for Air Climb at the Omni Providence Hotel on March 23.
It's the 10th consecutive year that the department has competed in the American Lung Association's biggest national fundraiser. Although the department hasn't taken home any top prizes in the contest itself, they have long been one of the Rhode Island chapter's top overall fundraisers.
"Year after year, they are always leading the way and 2019 is no different," said Daniel Bowler, development manager for the Rhode Island chapter of the American Lung Association. "They've stepped up once again, helping bring attention to both the event and lung health."
The Rhode Island event, one of 40 Fight for Air Climbs across the U.S., is expected to draw over 800 participants, including more than 200 firefighters representing over 30 fire departments, Bowler said. The firefighters carry 75 pounds of equipment.
Over the past nine years, the Dunn's Corners Fire Department has raised nearly $25,000, Bowler said. The firefighters are seeking to surpass $5,000 this year, which would be their largest collection yet.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon, the Dunn's Corners team had raised $4,399, and Deputy Chief Carl Johnson was the leading individual fundraised with $1,851.
Lt. Jeffrey Thomas, the department's training officer, said the annual event is a favorite for the department, in large part because of the mission of the lung association.
"When it comes to firefighters, we are among those most susceptible to cancer and lung disease," Thomas said. "It's a job we chose, but when you are dealing with the smoke of burning trash, cars or buildings, you are breathing in a lot of unhealthy air. This is a way for us to draw attention to lung disease and help those struggling with it."
Thomas said the annual event has helped to attract a younger set of volunteers to fill its ranks.
Thomas said the competitors are training in their own ways, from using StairMaster exercise machines to making it a friendly competition among the local members. All participants are excited and ready to go, he said, but first they're working to meet their fundraising goals.
"There are just a few weeks left, and we are all working to tap into our networks and find a way to raise as much as we can," Thomas said.
To donate to the Dunn's Corners team, visit its website at https://tinyurl.com/y68o2qfg or write a check to "American Lung Association," with "Jeff Thomas-DCFD" in the memo and send it to the following address: Cori O’Connor, American Lung Association, 260 West Exchange St., Suite 102b, Providence, RI 02903.
For more information on how to volunteer, contact the department at 401-322-0577, visit their website at dunnscorners.com, or stop by their headquarters at 1 Langworthy Road.