10-Year Champion: Aaron Johnson

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Aaron Johnson has been a firefighter with Calgary Fire Department for over 16 years, and for over half that time, he’s been stepping up and taking part in Wellspring’s annual Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge.

“It’s a wonderful event to be involved in. A great opportunity to give back to the community and support people who are going through some pretty terrible stuff; not just firefighters but anybody,” said Aaron.

While Aaron expresses unreserved passion about the career path he earmarked for himself back in middle school, he is also keenly aware of the occupational hazards.

“It’s not just around the fire environment itself, cancer and other health risks are woven into our occupation in a number of ways,” he said, citing sleep disruption, the challenges around shift work, and the stresses on the body resulting from hormonal surges… fight-or-flight being a frequent state in this occupation.

But when you have fire in the belly the way firefighters like Aaron do, you adopt a ‘take it as it comes’ mindset, and do everything you can to mitigate the risks.

Aaron’s wife Uyen and his daughter Jordyn support Aaron and join him at the event when they can.

“I love what I do; and let’s face it, every career has pros and cons,” said Aaron. “I just try my very best to keep myself healthy and active, and doing events like this stairclimb that benefit my overall health and help others – those are the things that counter some of the negative sides of our job.”

While his main reason for doing the climb is his commitment to serve the community and support those living with cancer, another reason he signs up every year is to inspire fellow firefighters to jump onboard and get in a fitness mindset.

“For some of us this is a 30-year plus career and that’s a long time to maintain the kind of fitness focus we need to succeed in our mission,” he said. “These kinds of events give you an incentive to train, and the challenge keeps the fire burning inside you,” he said.

Aaron says every year he comes away from the event on a high – feeling that he has filled his cup.

“Events like this remind us what our career is about. You are surrounded by firefighters from all over who understand. This is who we are. Helping and giving is what we do,” he said.