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Thousands will storm up the steps of the U.S. Bank Center this Saturday in the name of fighting against lung cancer.

Among those many climbers will be Gary Spencer of Brookfield who, like many others, has a personal score to settle with the disease.

Spencer, coordinator of product service at Milwaukee Tool in Brookfield, will be joined by over 50 of his co-workers for the American Lung Association's annual Fight for Air Climb.

The climb will see approximately 3,000 people go from the basement to the top of the U.S. Bank Center — a total of 1,034 steps.

Fifth climb

For Spencer, it will be his fifth year making the climb, having first done so in 2013 after both a close friend and his younger brother were diagnosed with cancer in the same month.

"In March of 2012, Brad Desmore, who was my best friend here at work, was diagnosed with stage 4 head and neck cancer," Spencer said. "Later in March, my younger brother David was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer."

Desmore died Dec. 30, 2012. He had worked at Milwaukee Tool for over 30 years.

"He was an electrical technician in our testing lab and he worked himself all the way up to vice president of quality and reliability," Spencer said. "He was well-known across the entire corporation and one of our co-workers here thought, even though Brad did not have lung cancer, why don't we see if we can get a team together for Fight for Air?"

The first year Spencer made the climb, he was joined by not only his co-workers, but his brother.

"Dave said that he was going to do it for Brad. He did make it all the way to the top. It was the most determined thing I'd ever seen anybody do," Spencer said. "That's why I continue to do it. For him and for both of them."

David died later that year on Aug. 11, 2013. Since then, Spencer has been joined on the climb by his sons, his daughter-in-law, cousins and most recently his wife Peggy.

As of last week Spencer, a Milwaukee native, was one of 54 Milwaukee Tool teammates planning to head up to the top of the tallest building in the state of Wisconsin.

"To pull together to honor one of their own and then continue to do it, to keep doing it and to keep donating time, it just shows the support and concern and care that Milwaukee Tool has for its employees," Spencer said.

Final climb?

At the age of 62, Spencer said this might be his last time participating in the Fight for Air. He has improved his time to the top every year.

"It's hard to find anybody who hasn't been touched by cancer," Spencer said. "The Milwaukee stair climb is a fantastic thing. You even see fire departments do it in full gear, it's an amazing thing. This is such a worthy cause and it affects so many people. Every dollar helps."

The Fight for Air Climb first took place in 1989 in Oakbrook, Illinois in 1989 and is in its ninth year in Milwaukee.

"The Fight for Air Climb is a really great event," American Lung Association in Wisconsin special events coordinator Amanda Stengel said. "It's a great way to work with people in the Wisconsin community who suffer from lung disease or know someone who does."

The association hopes this year's event will raise approximately $700,000. The record for the event is $720,000.

"89 cents of every dollar that's raised that day stays right here in Wisconsin," Stengel said. "That's going to our lung disease programming and research."

More information on the Fight for Air Climb can be found online.

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