All go . . . The five volunteer firefighters gathering to train. From left: Glenn Chittock, Graeme Dwyer, Natasha Rankin, Neil Partridge and Matt Harrison. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by Shelley Inon

Five of Geraldine’s volunteer firefighting crew will race up Auckland’s Sky Tower this year in full firefighting kit to raise funds for Leukemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

For one of the participants Neil Partridge, it is a cause close to his heart.

Mr Partridge said 10 years ago he and his wife found out their newborn baby had neuroblastoma cancer.

As they went through the journey with their son Jayden, he and his wife Steph “were so blown away with the support and generosity of the various cancer foundations”.

Jayden, who officially went into remission when he was 4, still went to Camp Quality every year and he looked forward to every event, Mr Partridge said.

He felt these events had helped his son understand what had happened to him “and that he isn’t different just because he had cancer”.

Sadly, the worry hadn’t stopped there. Another close family member who was also very young had battled cancer, but was now in technical remission.

“Cancer doesn’t discriminate young or old, rich or poor, or what race you are.”

It was a heartbreaking and eye-opening experience going to the Starship Hospital cancer ward and “seeing all the young kids going through hell and back, and the families pulling together to help one another,” Mr Partridge said.

He felt as if the experience pulled him out of reality.

“Your whole life gets put on hold. Everything just carries on around you, but you are stuck in a day-to-day journey not knowing the outcome.”

Any chance to give back was “the least I can do,” Mr Partridge said.

The other four fire fighters on the team are Natasha Rankin, Glenn Chittock, Matt Harrison and Graeme Dwyer.

Ms Rankin adviser for Fire and Emergency New Zealand training on Little Mt Peel, and said the climb was “a killer every time”.

But Fonterra employee Matt Harrison has got a step up on his team-mates as his workplace is allowing him to train on the drier’s steps.

In previous years Fonterra has allowed other team-mates to train there too. But now, with Covid restrictions, only its employees can practise there.

Veteran participant Graeme Dwyer will be climbing the tower for the seventh time and said he felt it would be his last year. However, he admitted he said that last year.

“I’m older and fatter so don’t have any expectations at all.”