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Coasters put lungs to the test

Hundreds braved the slippery streets on Sunday, Feb.

Hundreds braved the slippery streets on Sunday, Feb. 27, to show up in support of lung health and the BC Lung Association's 10th Annual Stairclimb for Clean Air in Vancouver - including a few from the Sunshine Coast who raised thousands for the cause.

Elizabeth Kool and Tammy Dean raised close to $1,000, the Gibsons fire department team of Greig Soohen, Brad Plows, Robin Woolmer, James Charles Ingram and Rick Ruth have raised more than $2,000. And Shaun Stephens-Whale from Roberts Creek, now going to school and running track and cross country for the University of British Columbia, now holds the record for fastest climb in an impressive four minutes and 23 seconds.

Stephens-Whale, who has lived with asthma most of his life, has been a regular fixture at the annual Stairclimb for Clean Air and has helped raised thousands over the years.

Held every year at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel, the event attracts British Colum-bians from all walks of life - families, athletes, firefighters and those whose lives or loved ones have been affected by lung disease.

Kool suffers from asthma and is a long-time supporter of the Lung Association. She and Dean decided to take on the Stairclimb as a personal challenge. They got in shape by regularly completing a nine-kilometre hike at high elevation as well as training individually.

Kool completed her climb in less than 13 minutes.

"I have a flight of stairs at home which I climbed repeatedly to build up my stamina and make sure I was ready," said Kool.

Dean, a long-distance runner, came in at under nine minutes.

All members of the Gibsons firefighting team made the climb in their full turnout gear weighing more than 50 pounds, making their finishing times all that more impressive.

Their final climb times were: Plows, 12:47, Woolmer, 15:12, Ingram, 11:17, Ruth, 14:24 and Soohen, 35:32.

Not only was the Gibsons gang a cheerful addition to the ranks of climbing firefighters, but Brad Plows didn't let the snowy, icy streets discourage anyone.

"He drove the whole gang into town on a nasty, snowy Sunday morning only to turn around and drive them home again a few hours later," said Katrina van Bylandt, communications manager with the BC Lung Association. "In the lead up to the event, Brad and his firefighting mates even created a training video that was circulated on YouTube and Facebook pages. Overall they were a great team to have at the event and we look forward to seeing them again next year."

The BC Lung Asso-ciation's Stairclimb for Clean Air has raised more than $125,000 to date. Post-event fundraising will continue until March 25 with organizers hoping to raise close to $200,000 overall. All event proceeds go towards vital lung health and air quality research, programs and initiatives.