Cobar’s firies step up for MND research

Cobar Firefighters Chris Freeman, Khan Fugar, Alex Lennon, Tony Walkinshaw, Victor Papierniak Wojtowicz and Dean Hodges climbed 98 floors in full firefighting apparatus to help raise more than $748,000 for Motor Neuron Disease, with Alex named the highest individual fundraiser for the event. ▪ Photo contributed

Cobar’s Station 256 firefighters are feeling like they are on top of the world at the moment having just completed an amazing feat that helped to raise $748,045 for Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

A group of six firefighters from the Cobar station (along with Tom Martin, an honorary Station 256 member from Katoomba station) joined almost 600 Firefighters in Sydney on Saturday for the 2019 Firies Climb for MND.

The firefighters, in 20kg of full firefighting gear including breathing apparatus, climbed the 98 floors (1,504 steps) of the Sydney Tower Eye building.

Cobar’s Alex Lennon, Dean Hodges, Khan Fugar, Victor Papierniak Wojtowicz, Tony Walkinshaw and Chris Freeman with Tom Martin (and Huw Rabone who was unable to climb on the day due to unforeseen circumstances) helped to raise $20,295 for the cause.

It was Alex’s second attempt at the climb having previously entered in 2017.

He said prior to that he didn’t know much about MND which kills the body’s motor neurons that result in the patient’s inability to speak, move, swallow and breathe.

Since then Alex said he’s found a number of Cobar families who have been impacted by MND and four levels on the climb were dedicated to their loved ones: Lynne Smith Negfeltd, Bazza Gillette, Kevin James Lloyd and Paul Watson.

The second attempt also spurred Alex and the Cobar crew to raise as much as they could so that no one has to go through the torture of MND.

While the Cobar team raised just over $20,000, Alex was recognised as the highest individual fundraiser in the country having raised $13,600!

“It just goes to show the Cobar spirit,” Alex said.

“We are a town in significant drought with people and businesses doing it harder than ever and yet here’s the town of Cobar raising more money than those in Sydney and beyond. When you compare population and income levels to those in Sydney it really puts it into perspective just how big those Cobar hearts are.

“We had a lot of support from the community, not just bigger businesses but small home businesses and individuals.

“What these guys have done for the families of MND sufferers is monumental.

“The gruelling task of that climb is absolutely nothing compared to the effort of everyone in helping us raise this money and again it’s nothing compared to the pain and suffering that goes with disease,” Alex said.

One hundred per cent of the money raised has gone to Macquarie University who will use the funds to begin a clinical trial with Australian patients to slow and potentially stop MND in its tracks.

“One day in the future someone will walk into a doctor’s office, get a diagnosis of MND and the doctor will simply say: “Here’s your cure, this will all be ok,” and we will have the absolute delight in knowing our community helped make that happen,” Alex said.