Six-year-old St. Clair Elementary student Will Stephens was one of youngest to participate in this year’s Sept. 11 memorial stair climb in Clayton.
In addition, he raised $500 for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
Will’s mom, Angie, a firefighter for Cedar Hill, has been participating in the memorial stair climbs since the event was started in 2012.
The stair climb takes place at a bank near Clayton Fire House No. 1. Participants climb the building’s 23 floors five times to equal 2,090 or 110 floors of the twin towers.
When Will expressed interest in participating with her, she wanted him to learn the significance behind the stair climb and the events of 9/11.
“I don’t know if he fully understands why he’s doing what he’s doing, but it’s the only way I know how to teach him about it,” she said.
“And even if it’s just because I’m a firefighter and he’s doing it, that’s OK, but I was trying to prepare him for this.”
Will stays active through youth soccer and baseball.
Although Angie Stephens did not have any doubt her son was physically capable of completing the stair climb, she encouraged him to push through the entire 2,090 steps.
“I’m telling him that he could do it, but I knew he needed to want to do it, to push through,” she said.
“He says it was pretty easy for him.”
There is a fee of $35 to participate in the climb that goes toward the foundation, and climbers are encouraged to raise money prior to the event.
Through friends, family and with the help of social media, Will raised more than his original goal of $343.
“I never envisioned that we would get $500,” Angie Stephens said. “Will has set the bar pretty high for next year.”
For the money raised, he received a challenge coin, a sweatshirt and a speaking trumpet.
Will said he loved doing the stair climb.
“I was kind of nervous whenever I did it because there were so many people around me,” he said.
While climbing he carried tools, and his mom climbed in her firefighter gear. He added that his favorite part was reaching the top floor and going back down in the elevator.
Angie said participants received a lot of support from volunteers and others.
“The camaraderie that’s there and the encouragement – it’s like we’re a huge family in there,” she said.
Participants are given a badge with a name and photo of a fallen firefighter to carry as a way to honor their memory as they climb, she added.
“Let’s say somebody isn’t able to finish, somebody else will take that tag and walk with or for those people,” she said.
Angie and Will climbed for Glen Perry and Philip Petti. When they finish, participants ring a bell as they say the fallen firefighter’s name.