WILKES-BARRE TWP. — In honor of the father-in-law she never met, Caryle Bruno was prepared emotionally and physically to climb all 1,224 steps of the Mohegan Sun Arena Saturday.
Her father-in-law, Michael Bruno, died from lung cancer 25 years ago at age 52.
“I would have liked to have known him,” the Forty Fort resident said.
Bruno was one of 169 participants in the sixth annual Arena Climb, benefiting the American Lung Association. Each participant had to raise money through pledges to be able to walk or run steps inside the home of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Donna Ray-Reifler, development director of the American Lung Association, said the group had a goal of raising $15,000 to support lifesaving lung-health programs. Those programs include asthma camps for kids, Better Breather support groups, educational programs for schools and businesses, and research.
“We raised about $13,000,” Ray-Reifler said. “That is not counting mail-in donations.”
Starting at 1 p.m. participants held a warm-up period to stretch their leg muscles. Then, each climber began to descend the first of 22 flights of stairs based on an assigned number.
Climbers descended down to the first row of seats near the ice and then up to the top of the first level. Three water stations were set up through the course and emergency medical personal were on hand.
Ray-Reifler reminded everyone the Arena Climb is not a competition and passing is allowed.
“We all will climb at our own level,” she said. “Just pass carefully.
Among the climbers were 15 firefighters from the Plains Township and Scott Township fire departments, participating in full fire protection gear, Ray-Reifler said.
James Beavers, captain of Scott Township Fire Station 36, was in full uniform, complete with an oxygen tank on his back. A total estimation of weight was 100 pounds, he said.
“I made it half way,” Beavers said. “My knee started to bother me.”
Two members of his crew, Justin Ezerskis, 15, and Zack Setzer, 16, carried about 50 pounds each. They finished the full course and fully intended to tease their captain.
Family and friends cheered from the seats as climbers gradually reached the last row of steps. After clocking in at the finish line, some climbers retired for a free massage while other awaited their times to be posted.
Standing with her husband, Michael Bruno Jr., Bruno said the climb was more difficult than she thought.
“The steps close to the top are steeper than you think,” she said.
Michael said his dad would have been proud of the day’s event.
“He was very outgoing, a do-it-yourselfer,” he said. “But he smoked his whole life.”
After watching his dad go through chemotherapy trying to fight lung cancer, he advises others to stop smoking.
“People are not the same when they go through chemotherapy,” he said.