Conway woman honors fallen firefighters at National Stair Climb


(WWLP) – A local firefighter and her team are preparing for their fifth year climbing for a cause.

For the last four years, a Gemma VanderHeld of Conway climbed 110 stories at the National Stair Climb for Fallen Firefighters. On Sunday, her team will do their fifth climb.

110 stories, that’s how many flights firefighters and first responders climbed in the twin towers on 9/11.

“Remembering that there were so many firefighters killed on 9/11 and the climbs were established to remember them,” VanderHeld told 22News. She’s honoring their memory by doing the same.

“You get a feeling when you’re there and it’s something you know that you’re doing, something bigger, you’re part of something more,” she said.

For the past four years VanderHeld and her team “Hilltown 343” climbed the 110 stories at the National “Stair Climb for Fallen Soldiers.” The team grew each year, raising money for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

“What they do for people, for people, for families, for children whose parents have been killed and even trying to prevent line of duty deaths – it just brought it all together,” VanderHeld said.

Her team has raised more than $800 so far. Last year, VanderHeld placed in the climb’s top three fundraisers. Her team wears full firefighter gear when climbing that can weigh from 60 to 80 pounds.

(Photo courtesy Gemma VanderHeld)

While her team is not from New York, she said the experience makes them feel closer to the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11.

“You get a feeling when you there and it’s something you know that you’re doing something bigger you’re part of something more,” said VanderHeld.

You can cheer on Team Hilltown 343 as they climb on Sunday at 10 a.m. at Belmont Park in New York. If you would like to donate to her team, click here.

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