A father-son firefighter duo from the region are getting ready for the climb of their lives.
John Yonkin, an assistant chief with the Dushore Volunteer Fire Co., and his paramedic-firefighter son, Brian Yonkin, a member of the Willing Hand Hose Co. No. 1 in Montoursville, are training to climb 69 floors of a Seattle high-rise to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The two will join 1,500 firefighters from around the world next month to compete in the 21st annual Scott Firefighter Stair Climb.
The event is a timed race up the Columbia Center Tower by firefighters wearing full turnout gear and carrying a self-contained breathing apparatus on their backs.
Joining the father and son team is a third Yonkin, John's brother, Tom, fire chief in Sayre, who will serve a key supportive role for his brother and nephew.
On the 40th floor of the tower, Tom will be among those changing the firefighters' used air bottlers for fresh full bottles of air as quickly and as safely as possible.
For the Yonkins, the climb is personal for many reasons.
John and Tom's sister, Kathy Yonkin-Brown, of Somers, Conn., was diagnosed in 2003 with chronic myelogenous leukemia.
"She's a rock and has kept on fighting," John Yonkin said in describing his sister and her tough attitude and approach in battling the disease.
She has been on an experimental medication that has put the disease in remission for six years, he added.
The Yonkins also will be climbing in honor of Jake Gavitt, of Eagles Mere, a 16-year-old cousin who is a student at Sullivan County High School. He was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5, but has been in remission since 2004.
In his climb, John Yonkin also will honor fellow lifetime Dushore fire company member Robbie Shenk, who was diagnosed last year with leukemia.
The climb is sponsored by Scott Health and Safety, a leading manufacturer of air packs used in the fire service.
It is a tradition that participants display on their helmets - or carry with them - photos of those they are honoring in the climb. It will be no different for John and his son.
Brian also will carry a photo of Ruth Johns, of Montoursville, who died of leukemia in November 2010 and was the grandmother of his girlfriend, Sara Johns.
On the day of the climb, the Yonkin family also will very much keep close to their hearts the memory of Larry Yonkin.
He is John and Tom's brother who died in the line of duty in 2003 when he suffered a heart attack at home one day after directing firefighting operations at a fatal house fire as chief of the Forest View-Gang Mill Volunteer Fire Co. in Painted Post, N.Y.
John Yonkin suggested to his son last year that he sign up for the Columbia Center Tower climb.
"In late November or early December, Brian sent me an email, telling me he signed up, and I said 'Great,' " the elder Yonkin said.
"He then came back with a challenge. 'Why don't you do it?' I didn't have a good reason not to. I've always looked at life as an adventure, and this is really a great cause," Yonkin, a retired health company executive, said.
"It's been great to get back in shape," Yonkin said.
Both he and his son have been training hard for the climb.
Brian practices going up and down the stairwell at the Montoursville firehouse on Broad Street, his father uses a Stepmill machine at home.
"The machine gives you the full effect," Yonkin said.
"It's been a great challenge, and a lot of fun, but I'll be glad when it's over," he added.
"My goal is to finish and not to get hurt. I've got to find the right pace and stay focused," Yonkin said.
The climb is on March 11.
Anyone wishing to sponsor the Yonkins may send a check to the Leukemia and Lyphoma Society.
Write Yonkin sponsor/Scott Firefighter Stair Climb in memo or go to sponsorbrianandjohn.net.