Seattle, Washington | This story is more or less a tweaked version and inspired by the original as told by Seattle Firefighter Mike Sulak. 

Columbia Tower, second tallest building West of the Mississippi
Columbia Tower, second tallest building West of the Mississippi

This is dedicated to all the Firefighters who “climb” annually to raise funds for those with blood cancers for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Seattle Chapter.  The organization hosts many events to raise awareness, research, patient support and information programs.  To volunteer or support them, check out their website at

Over 1800 Firefighters from around the world will participate in the Annual Scott Firefighter Climb, a timed event up the Columbia Tower up a vertical elevation of 788-feet, up 1,311 steps = 69 flights of stairs.  “Climb. Conquer. Cure.” is the event’s motto.


[L] Everett Firefighter Joe Paterniti and [R] Seattle Firefighter Matt Runte (c) 2012 LRSWenson










We dedicate this story to all that who may be climbing during this event, which will be held on March 9, 2014. 


The Firefighter and The Princess

On March 10, 2013, a Seattle firefighter found that all of his strength, undivided attention and months of vigorous training would be put to the test, not from fighting a fire or responding to an aid call, but competing in a timed race – all in the name of raising money for research and finding a cure for blood cancers. 

 A race, that this Firefighter and so many of his brothers and sisters participate in annually, for a chance to race up the second tallest building just west of the Mississippi and on the West Coast. Focusing on his difficult task at hand was his personal challenge of climbing up 69-flights of stairs, with a 788-foot vertical elevation gain and over 1,300 steps at one of Seattle’s venues, The Columbia Tower. He had completed this annual race so many times before, but there was something different this year.

 As the Firefighter was waiting in the registration line, he spotted a little girl maybe four or five years old wearing a purple tiara. He observed her looking up at all the giant firefighters filing past her. 

 As he reached her location he bent down on one knee in front of her, saying “My goodness, I didn’t know a Princess was going to be here today!”  He could see her gorgeous little eyes light up and an incredible smile appeared on her face.  This made the Firefighter very happy and encouraged.

 They were introduced to each other by the Princess’ mother.  The Princess also has a form of blood cancer. The Firefighter and the Princess instantly connected with one another.

 As the Firefighter left the area to go to another section of the line, he looked back thanking The Princess for being there.   She would help him climb to the top of this extremely tall building.

 While approaching the Identification table and later arriving at the area where they scan in start time from the race chips, there was the Princess again! He told the Princess he wanted to do a “High” five when he passes her to the entry way to the stairwell. The Princess nodded in agreement.

 As the Firefighter put his mask on, he swiped his arm band across the chip reader recording his start time.  It was his time to start, so the Firefighter and the Princess did a “High Five” on his way to the stairwell entry way.  He was in good spirits and working his way from the bottom to the top.

 Someplace while ascending up the stairs, the Firefighter began struggling, his legs began to feel like wet noodles and his lungs were on fire.  The Firefighter began to think of the Princess and her battle with cancer.  Instantly, the Firefighter was re-energized enabling him to ascend to the top making it across the finish line.

 His race chip recorded his triumphant climb finishing at 24 minutes and 41 seconds!  And, The Princess was there to greet him.  Their eyes locked.  Her beautiful dazzling eyes lit up once again and created another amazing smile, warming his heart.

 At the end of the finish line, the Firefighter’s journey up the tall building had been completed, the Princess was there again.  After he had his air pack, helmet, gloves and jacket removed, he made great strides making his way towards the Princess to give her another “High Five” but he could only muster a breathless thank you. He was grateful for her being there.

 The Firefighter was then pulled back to the rehab area given a chair and water to cool down.  Once, he felt relaxed, he was cleared to return back to the main floor, taking the freight elevator down. 

 Upon arrival to the Lobby, the Firefighter was not met by the Princess as he had been by so many times before, which greatly saddened him.  He looked everywhere for her without success. She was nowhere to be found. 

 In the end, they both worked hand-in-hand as a miraculous team, with the Firefighter winning his race up one of the tallest buildings and the Princess allowing the Firefighter to motivate her to continue her battle against cancer. Together, they have found a way to inspire and empower those around them, leaving handprints of love upon the hearts they continue to touch even to this day.


(c) 2013 LR [Lisa] Swenson – “Honorable Mention” by the Public Safety Writers Association, July 2013.

Inspired by real-life Seattle Firefighter Michael Sulak. [His 2014 Fundraising Page.]


(c) 2014 The NW Fire Blog