The fundraising efforts of Sechelt firefighter Steve Achterberg have been recognized by Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC), with its Firefighter of the Year Award for 2020-21.
Stacey Lintern, chief executive officer with MDC, said Achterberg was chosen by her organization for the award for the leadership roles he has taken on within his department since 2018. A fire prevention inspector with the Sechelt fire department, Achterberg also heads up fundraising work with the department’s firefighters association.
“Fundraising is always difficult and it became even more so during a pandemic,” said Lintern. “Steve hosted numerous events and looked at creative ways to raise funds in a safe way.”
Achterberg’s creativity really blossomed, she noted, when he did a unique take on the traditional firefighters’ “stair climb challenge.” In those events, participants race up the staircases of highrise buildings in full firefighting gear as a fundraiser. In 2020, Achterberg put together a “tree climb challenge” where the competition involved climbing a tree in full gear. The efforts were recorded on video and shared to encourage other fire departments to take part.
“That raised over $20,000 for us,” said Lintern.
A video of Sechelt firefighter Tyrel Brackett completing the challenge is posted on MDC’s Facebook page.
Atcherberg said he was “blown away” by being chosen for the award.
“I have never been afraid to ask for money for a good cause,” he told Coast Reporter.
Firefighter of the Year is one of several annual awards presented to volunteers and supporters by MDC under its Dr. David Green Recognition Program. The program is named after the researcher who co-founded the organization in 1954. Lintern noted that MDC has been the “charity of choice” for Canadian firefighters since it was established.
An award plaque was presented to Achterberg on Sept. 26 at Halfmoon Bay Fire Hall No. 1 by MDC’s B.C. branch community engagement specialist, Kirstie Rousell.
The presentation took place as part of the finale of the Mayday for MD fundraiser, which he spearheaded. That event, a “ferry to ferry” relay walk by about 60 firefighters, raised over $21,000 in donations to MDC for its work benefiting people impacted by that disorder.
That amount was more than double the level he projected to be raised when he began organizing the single day 80-kilometre relay walk.
“I thought it would be a great idea to show some unity across the Coast and to get all the local fire departments involved… We had more than 40 corporate sponsors and more wanted to participate. What I’ve been hearing from participants is that they want to do it again and to get more people involved, so I’m planning for another walk in 2022,” said Atcherberg.
When asked if the over 18 millimetres of rain that fell in the area on event day impacted the walk, Achterberg said: “We’re firefighters. Regardless of the weather, we come to do our work.”