By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Ryan Parkison, Ted Shultz and Shanie Hill.
Those were three of the faces on Keizer volunteer firefighter Amber Butler’s mind and helmet as she climbed 1,356 steps covering 69 floors to the top of Seattle’s tallest building, all while wearing 60 pounds of full gear.
Joined by Keizer firefighter/paramedic Jeff Gallinger and Lt. Rachel Brozovich, Butler completed the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb, a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lumphoma Society, for the seventh time on March 12.
“I have a personal attachment,” Butler said of Parkison, who lost his battle with blood cancer in 2001, Shultz, who passed away in December and Hill, who is currently fighting. “If I can raise money and awareness, I have my health, I’ll climb that beast. I’ll do it in their memory.”
Firefighters are invited to submit photos, which are then printed throughout the stairwell to remind competitors why they are climbing as their legs get tired and it becomes harder to breath.
“It gives us encouragement to climb more,”Butler said. “Every year I have somebody’s face to look for and then I see all of these other faces of people who are important to someone else. We’re all coming together to try to end blood cancer so it’s really awesome to see all these faces in the stairwell that we’re trying to make a difference for them.”
In 2016, the event featured over 1,900 firefighters from over 330 different departments and five different countries, bringing in a record $2.3 million for blood-cancer research and patient services.
While the climb is competitive, Butler noted she’s a fundraiser first and a competitive climber second. That became even more true this year as Shultz, a physician in the Salem area and Butler’s mentor, began to go down hill around Thanksgiving, when she would typically begin getting in shape for the climb.
“Last year, when Ted was healthier and I knew time was kind of winding down, I thought this has got to be my best year ever, I’ve got to make him proud so I raised $11,081 and set a personal best for my time (31:55) and I was really proud and honored to be able to do that and then he got really sick,” Butler said. “That (best time) wasn’t my priority anymore. My priority was raising awareness and raising money so I worked even harder this year to raise money. This year I didn’t set a personal best (time) but it still means just as much to me to be able to climb across that finish line and call Ted’s family and say ‘I did it.’ To know him for 14 years and just learn so much from him, about being a great nurse and being a great human, he was extremely important in my life.”
Butler didn’t stop there, competing in the New York City Memorial Stair Climb just a week later with fellow Keizer volunteer firefighter Jim Simpson.
They climbed the 72 stories of the 4 World Trade Center in memory of two of the 343 firefighters killed on Sept. 11—John Williamson and Edward D’Atri.
Butler said the New York climb was physically and emotionally more draining.
“Every building is ginormous to a girl that was born and raised in Keizer, Oregon,” she said. “It was just different and you get in the stairwell and then you realize it’s 72 floors up for thousands of employees so no wonder the stairwell is twice as wide, the landing is four times as large and it’s just a bigger beast than the Seattle tower. It’s 69 flights in Seattle and 72 in New York City but man those flights are different. It was grueling.”
Butler, who completed the climb in 43:21, has been a volunteer at KFD for 20 years and participated in 15 total stair climbs in Seattle, New York and Portland.