Early Sunday morning, La Porte Mayor Blair Milo, a friend and five firefighters of La Porte's Fire Department climbed 94 floors in Hustle up the Hancock, a climber’s race up the John Hancock Center in support of lung disease awareness.
The team consisted of Mayor Blair Milo, Assistant Chief AC Pressler, Captain Erik Sabie, Mary Bugg, Fire Chief Andy Snyder, Firefighter EMT Zach Kanney and Captain Bill Lott.
Bugg, who had just participated in this race for the third time, first became interested in the event because of a family member of hers who had been affected by respiratory illness.
"During her previous climbs, she noted the number of firefighter teams that participated and thought we might have some interest. I and several of our department members were immediately intrigued and thought it was a great idea for a great cause," Snyder said.
After hearing about an event with a worthy cause, Snyder contacted Milo, and made sure to create a team for this year's race.
Sunday was both Snyder and Milo's first time competing in this challenge.
"This was my inaugural climb and I would do it again as it is a unique challenge, especially when you look at the Hancock Building from the street below and can think, 'We just climbed to the top of that,'" Milo said.
The team made sure to keep a steady pace up the 94 floors that contained 1,632 stairs in total.
Milo climbed to the ninety-fourth floor in 18:57, and Snyder climbed to the finish in 17:15.
"This was a classic example of 'slow and steady wins the race,' as there were many people I passed throughout who had pushed too hard starting out, but by the thirtieth floor were already struggling. It's tough to make 94 when you've made great time to 30, but are dragging for the last 64. If you just keep methodically climbing away, then you don't realize how far you've come until you're almost done," Milo said.
Although each team member is used to long duration activities, the view from the top of the building left each teammate with a sense of accomplishment.
"There are several stair climbs across the country that firefighters participate in annually. Most are to commemorate the firefighters lost on 9/11. Unfortunately, I have not been able to participate in any of them. This climb helped me to appreciate, if only for a fraction, the physical demands it takes to scale that type of structure. It really put into perspective what those brothers were going through," Snyder said.
This race also allowed the team to help an organization that will reach out to those who are living with the effects of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD).
“I think as an added revelation, each of us noted how our lungs burned as we completed the climb, giving us a small glimpse of what people suffering from respiratory disease deal with every day,” Snyder said.
This eye-opening experience has led the group to begin planning a team for next year's climb, as they hope to add more members to their team.