It's not every day that you receive an entry for a four-legged participant in a major community event but that's exactly what happened for this years 2021 SkyPoint Sea to Sky Stair Challenge when Victorian based, Ember signed up for the Stair Challenge to raise awareness for mental health and support the event.
Ember is a five-year old Labrador who was initially trained as a therapy dog and is now a crisis response and assistance dog working with her equally inspiring, Natalie, a Leading Firefighter with Fire Rescue Victoria.
"Ember and I first ran in the Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb in 2018 to help raise the profile of the event and encourage donations which benefited mental health charities," said Natalie.
With the number of registrations for the Gold Coast event continuing to grow every day, it was reassuring to be able to include supporters from interstate with border restrictions lifting enabling participants such as Natalie to make their way up north to compete in an event that means a lot to them personally.
"LIVIN's message and mental health awareness is extremely important in my field," Said Natalie. "Mental health issues are a huge problem with emergency personnel and events like these are a great way to help remove the stigma surrounding mental health."
After the unprecedented bushfire season experienced across 2019 and 2020 there has been a particular understanding and acknowledgement on the struggles and stresses that first responders went through which became ongoing through the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
"We'll be coming up from Portland Victoria and excited about being able to visit the Gold Coast for this Stair Challenge especially when there is such an emphasis on mental health awareness through the partnership with LIVIN," said Natalie. "Ember loves community events as she gets to engage with people and raise awareness about the benefit of service dogs and mental health issues."
In addition to spreading awareness, Ember has also made an incredible contribution through her very own Fundraising Page with all proceeds going towards LIVIN.
"We appreciate anyone who spends their time participating in the event at the end of the day, it's all about community and spreading awareness," said Casey Lyons CEO of LIVIN. "The donations raised from everyone getting involved is incredibly humbling and appreciated as it helps us to continue doing the work that we do."
The SkyPoint Sea to Sky Stair Challenge will also help Ember achieve her final medal in her Stair Challenge initiative with her owner Natalie promising to relay a message for those who may see her on the day. "Ember also wants me to add that she loves cuddles and pats and is looking forward to meeting everyone on the day."