I am a Chicago Police Sergeant, Bagpiper, and now Stair Climber for charity.
I started stair climbing in 2012 when a friend asked me to join her team to climb the Aon Building in Chicago. The Aon climb supports the Children’s Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children’s Hospital). I completed the climb in 23:40 which isn’t too bad for a first climb. The Aon is 80 floors/1643 steps. My son, who was 7 years old at the time, wanted to do a stair climb with me. So we did the Hustle Up the Hancock (half climb) the following month. We also climbed the U.S. Bank Building in Los Angeles and the Sears Tower later in the same year.
When I first started doing stair climbs, I did them to see if I could make it and to support the charity that the event was for. In 2013, I did several local climbs with my son to continue to support the various charities and to improve on our climb times. I also quit drinking in July of 2011 and I was trying to focus on something healthier and more rewarding than alcohol.
In Sept of 2014, I participated in the Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. This was a 110 floor climb (55 floors x’s 2) in full police or fire gear. I also had the honor of bagpiping the opening ceremony with the Dallas area police/fire pipe bands. My wife accompanied me to volunteer at the event. We made many friends at this event and we met survivors of Ground Zero from FDNY. It was a very emotional event and great to meet some of the beneficiaries of the climbs fundraising efforts. See the event photos/videos page for a video of the bagpipes from the opening ceremony.
Throughout the past few years of stair climbing, I still struggled with the ups and downs of my weight. I fluctuated between 230-250, but I reached 260 in Dec of 2014. I also became friends with many of the climbers from all over the country. They are all great athletes and they excel at stair climbing. A lot them are my age and up including some in their 60’s and 70’s. Some have overcome serious injuries or illnesses and yet they still do the stair climbs, lead healthy lifestyles and support the various charities. I finally decided to make some changes.
In Dec 2014, I changed my diet and increased my cardio. Sounds basic and easy? It wasn’t. After several months, I dropped to 220/225. In July 2015, I began working with a stair climb friend who helped me with my eating habits. I dropped to 205 and I have kept in the 205/210 range for the past two years. With all the excess weight off of me, I am now able to do more climbs, support more causes and do better at the climbs. I am only in competition with myself. I constantly want to improve my climb times. For example: In 2012, I climbed the Sears Tower in 42:17 and in 2016, my time was 23:58. In 2019, my time improved to 23:20!! Again, being more active, a healthier eater and thinner has really helped me with my sobriety.
In 2015, I completed 14 climbs from coast to coast. I did climbs in LA, Seattle, Las Vegas, Dallas, North Carolina, Illinois, New York and South Carolina. I also bagpiped the opening ceremonies at several of these climbs. I do all of these climbs on my own time and mostly my own dime. I have gotten donations from several friends and family members over the past few years.
The more I participated in these events as a climber and a bagpiper, the more I met and saw the people who benefited from these events: the young girl with lymphoma, the military veteran with prosthetic arms and/or legs, cancer survivors and the family members who are supporting or remembering a loved one. This is when I decided that I wanted to do more.
Each stair climb supports a different charity: American Lung Association, Tunnel 2 Towers, Lurie Children’s Hospital, YMCA in LA, plus many more. Each climb has a registration fee and some climbs have minimum fundraising requirements. There are also travel costs involved with the out of state climbs.
Stair climbing and bagpiping at the events has brought me to places that I never thought I would have visited and we’ve met and become good friends with a lot of people who we wouldn’t have otherwise. It makes it even more rewarding that we’ve helped and inspired those along the way. Also, meeting a lot people through these events is what motivates and inspires us to keep doing this.
As of April 2017, we are now a non for profit organization. We are a 509a2 organization which falls under the 501c3 section of the IRS code. Click here for further explanation. Our EIN is 37-1858800. All donations are tax deductible.
We would like to be able to give back to and support various charities/causes at the local and national levels. We want to support first responders (police, fire and military) as well as anyone who may need our support. We want to sponsor individuals who may not be able to afford the registrations fee and minimum fundraising requirements for a stair climb.
Step Up & Give Back was originally created for several reasons:
- To support the charity that each stair climb benefits. For Example: Cancer, Military and First Responders, Children’s Hospitals, etc.
- To promote a healthy and sober lifestyle. Sgt. Coyne used to weigh 260 pounds and was drinking too much. He quit drinking in 2011 and lost almost 60 pounds through proper diet and exercise. First Responders have a very high rate of alcoholism, obesity and stress. Stair climbing has given Sgt. Coyne the focus to maintain a healthy and sober lifestyle.
- Sgt. Coyne volunteers his bagpiping talents for many of the stair climb opening ceremonies and other non-profit events.
- To meet the critical needs of First Responders and military. Most First Responders and military who are injured or killed in the line of duty are taken care of financially. But those that are injured, die or get sick not in the line of duty have little or no financial support.
In the Fall of 2019, we decided that bullet point #4 was too broad and not specific enough. Sgt. Coyne and his wife Marnie met up with Nick Greco, a board member of BLUE H.E.L.P., an organization dedicated to honoring officers who died by suicide, as well as education, prevention and officer wellness. Step Up & Give Back will now support BLUE H.E.L.P. regarding Law Enforcement suicide prevention/awareness and honoring the officer as well as their families who not only left behind, but who are often forgotten about. All too often, these families receive little or no financial support when an officer dies by suicide. There is still a stigma when talking about Law Enforcement mental health and suicides. We want to help remove that stigma. Step Up & Give Back will still proudly continue their mission for bullet points #1, #2, and #3 while also expanding upon bullet point #4.
Some Statistics on Law Enforcement Suicides:
- Law Enforcement suicides are up 24% in 2019 from 2018.
- Law Enforcement suicides now outnumber line of duty deaths for the past 3 years.
- Law Enforcement is at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession.
- Chicago Police Department’s suicide rate is 60% higher than the National Law Enforcement average.
PTSD, stress, alcoholism and divorce are some of the leading causes of Law Enforcement suicides.
For those interested in bagpiping only please visit Chicagoland Irish Bagpipers