'Every step was for them'

Over 1,200 climb the Space Needle to raise crucial research funds for Fred Hutch
Dr. Maika D'Ambrosi with Fred Hutch's Dr. Jonathan Bricker
Psychologist Dr. Maika D'Ambrosi, left, and Fred Hutch's Dr. Jonathan Bricker enjoy the view after finishing the inaugural climb to the top of the Space Needle to raise money for cancer research. Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

UPDATE: On October 12, Base2Space announced that the event raised over $500,000 for Fred Hutch research.

Cancer survivors, community members and other supporters of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center ascended 832 steps for cancer research this Saturday at the inaugural Base 2 Space Climb.

For the first time ever, the open-air staircase to the top of the iconic Seattle landmark was opened to the public, offering climbers a panoramic view of the city as they spiraled up 52 stories in brilliant October sunshine.

Dave Mandapat, the Space Needle’s director of public relations, said the organization wants the Needle, built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, to be more than a hometown icon: they want to be a neighbor and community partner. Toward that end, they chose Fred Hutch to support with their inaugural climb because it is a local organization with global impact.

“Fred Hutch is doing amazing things on not only a local scale but also on an international scale,” he said. “[Supporting] a local organization that's doing amazing things for all of mankind was important to us.”

Each climber had to raise a minimum of $250, and all proceeds went to the Hutch (the final fundraising tally will be announced in days to come). In April, the top 10 fundraisers will have the chance to walk the Needle’s “halo,” the outermost ring. Prizes were also awarded to the fastest male and female climbers in each age group.

“We hope people left with a unique experience,” said Mark Grantor, senior event director for Base 2 Space. “It can be for the elite athletes who finish between five and six minutes or for casual climbers who take their time. We hope people came away feeling good that they were part of a unique iconic event in the city of Seattle and also feeling a great contribution to our cause.”

Over 1,200 climbers participated in the event, ranging from cancer survivors to families of patients who’ve died (many wrote the names of lost loved ones on their skin) to those who wanted to check “climbing the Needle” off their bucket list.

“I was thinking of my family (during the climb),” said climber and Seattle-area clinical psychologist Dr. Maika D’Ambrosi. “I have three members of my family dealing with cancer right now so every step, every breath was for them. It was a push to keep climbing up.”

Matt Corey, who came up from Tacoma for the event, said he wanted to climb for two reasons: to give him a unique perspective of Seattle and because cancer has affected many of his loved ones.

“My grandmother died of pancreatic cancer and I have several friends who are breast cancer survivors,” he said. “It's just something that's very near and dear to my heart.”

Fred Hutch public health researcher Dr. Jonathan Bricker said during his ascent, he focused on the people who have lost their lives to cancer and how this event could help eventually eradicate the disease.

“I was mindful [with] each step of all the people that I’m doing this climb for,” he said. “All the people who have died of cancer and how we hope that this climb will help eventually prevent cancer in the future.”

The Space Needle's Mandapat said he would like to see Base 2 Space become a tradition.

“I hope people left saying ‘I want to do this again next year, I want to bring my friends and family and have them do it with me,’” he said.

Climbers (and spectators) enjoyed a free concert by Seattle soul musician Allen Stone at the end of the event, along with the satisfaction of knowing they’d helped raise thousands of dollars for cancer research. Results from the event can be viewed here.

“I’m a big believer in Fred Hutch,” said Seattle-area climber Karen Gutt. “I also do Obliteride [and] when I heard about this event, I had to do it. I believe Fred Hutch can find cures faster so it’s really important to me to be a part of this event."

Fred Hutch multimedia producer Bo Jungmayer contributed reporting for this story.

Megan Herndon is a freelance contributor to Fred Hutch News Service. She is a senior at University of Washington where she is majoring in journalism, minoring in French and pursuing a Certificate of Sales. Reach her at mherndon@fredhutch.org

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