Local Firefighter Conquering Heights for a Good Reason

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For Nathan Richard, a member of the Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department (TVFD) for 20 years, climbing the stairs of sky-high buildings for a good cause isn’t anything new. 

He has participated in several National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs, which led him to scale such buildings as the Freedom Tower (also known as the One World Trade Center) in New York and the Regions Tower (400 Poydras Tower) in New Orleans. 

Richard, who is also busy being an executive chef in New Orleans and adjunct instructor at Nicholls State University, said he does six to seven stair climbing events a year. 

“There’s no excuses. It’s something important to me,” the crowned King of Louisiana and American Seafood said. “So therefore, when something is important to you, you have to do what you have to do to make it work.”

He cares for the causes he climbs for, but the one that hits closest to home for Richard is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle. 

In 2015, he suffered from a deep vein thrombosis blood clot, which caused him to be hospitalized and indefinitely be on blood thinners. “I promised myself once I leave this hospital,” he recalled, “I am going to do my part to make sure I can help out with blood-related cancers.” 

After hearing about the LLS Stairclimb from his wife Shannon, who is from Seattle, he decided to participate in it three years ago. 

At the event, thousands of firefighters trek up 69 flights, taking approximately 1,356 steps — while being in full structural turnout gear — to achieve their goal of conquering 788 feet of elevation to reach the top of the Columbia Center in Downtown Seattle. 

Richard is always prepared for the challenge, however, as he rigorously trains multiple times a week throughout the year, with a goal each time of climbing 80 floors or higher to honor police and firefighters killed in the line of duty. 

Last year, Richard climbed the event in honor of his friend and fellow stair climber Seth Champagne, a 12-year member of the Iberia Parish Fire Department, who was suffering from leukemia. 

“It meant a lot knowing that it’s the firefighter brotherhood that keeps us together and he was doing something for me,” Champagne said. 

Champagne, who is now in remission, will climb alongside Richard at this year’s LLS Stairclimb on March 8. 

Richard and Champagne pose for a photo on top of the Louisiana State Capitol. (Photo by Jared Serigné)

Along the way, the two firemen are raising money for LLS, which has received over $20 million for blood cancer research and patient services since the event’s inception. 

Click here to donate to Richard’s fundraiser. Champagne’s donation page can be found here

“You don’t have to get physically involved in it. You can make just a simple donation to help people out,” said Richard, “When you can spare extra money or time, you should.” 

Champagne noted the importance of the funds for blood cancer research, but he said it helping children is what he valued the most about it.

“I do my treatments with the children’s clinic at Ochsner,” he shared. “So for me, it’s about the kids because there’s a lot of them.” 


Feature image by Sara Buri.