Warming Up a Westport Island Winter

Four Islanders head to Beantown for the “Fight for Air Climb”

Four Westport Islanders have been keeping warm during the recent cold spate — running, walking, climbing…and pushing and pumping both their fire gear and their cardiovascular systems.

On Saturday, February 2, Island residents Paul Bonyun, Jason Abbott, Libby Mooney and Angie Calvo will participate in the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb and will race up to the top of One Boston Place. Paul, Jason and Libby will represent the Westport Volunteer Fire Department (WVFD), and Angie will represent Portland Fire Local 740 — currently the #3 fundraiser. (Links to their team pages are provided to keep track of their fundraising progress or to contribute.)

Paul BonyunAll participants will be climbing from the basement to the top of One Boston Place – 41 floors: 789 steps with an elevation gain of 493 feet. As members of Fire Department teams, they will be wearing their turnout gear, firefighting boots, helmets, air tanks and masks — literally fighting for air during their urban climb. Why? For an insight into team spirit, read a letter from WVFD Team Captain Paul Bonyun…

In August of 2012 I heard about this challenge. People would participate in a stair climb, 758 stairs to be exact. I heard fellow firefighters talking about joining in and raising money for a good cause. I felt an inner desire to join the cause. That inner desire soon turned to an inner fire. It became a bit of an obsession; not a “want” to do but a “had” to do.

I asked myself why this had become so important to me. The answer did not take long to form in my brain (my injured brain by the way). I realized it was important to raise money to support the good work of the American Lung Association; to promote clean air and healthy lungs. But my inner fire was about more than that. It was about the importance of health and a healthy lifestyle as well. It was leading a healthy life style to which I attribute my current health status.

Seven years ago I was cutting a large oak tree down when it broke off and gave me a good whack in the head. It left me with a traumatic brain injury and a ride with Life Flight to Central Maine Medical Center where I lay in a coma for a couple of weeks. During my recovery I struggled to relearn how to walk, how to think, and how to talk. My balance was a serious issue as I was weakened on my left side due to the damage to the right side of my brain. My recovery was steady, but very slow. First I learned to walk a hallway, then a short flight of 4-5 steps. When I first returned home I could not navigate the 14 steps from our living room to our kitchen. My wife had to wait on me and I found myself determined to return to my former independent lifestyle.

I began to work out on a regular basis. Before the accident I had been eating healthy foods and exercising on a regular basis. The doctors were sure that is what gave me the edge to return to life as I had known it. I have no doubt had I been a smoker, overweight or on meds for high blood pressure I would not have had such a miraculous recovery.

When faced with the idea of the stair climb challenge, my first thought was, “I can do this.” I knew I could train myself and work with my team of Westport Island Fire Department members to reach this goal. I wanted to prove my inner strength and soothe that inner fire by joining this cause to help others fight for a better life like I had. I will climb those 758 stairs and I will do it for myself and my fellow firefighters as well as all the people who are helped by the good work of the American Lung Association.

Go Teams!!! Go Islanders!!!

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Posted on January 28, 2013, in News, People and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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