ALBANY -- The Albany Fire Department is hoping to build on its momentum in the Be The Match Firefighters Challenge by having a booth at the Solano Stroll on Sept. 14.

The department is one of several in the Bay Area taking the challenge to raise awareness and money for treatment of blood cancers such as leukemia. The campaign is also signing up donors for a national bone marrow registry.

"Our focus is going to be to go out there, spread the message and try to get people to join Be The Match," Albany firefighter James Sanders said of the stroll in Albany and Berkeley, which typically attracts more than 250,000 people.

Sanders and his fellow firefighters will ride an engine in the parade, then set up camp at Key Route and Solano. People will be able to donate at the booth -- checks should be made out to Be The Match -- and can also sign up for the registry.

To qualify for the registry, donors must be age 18 to 44, in good health, and willing to donate to anyone in need.

The Be The Match Firefighters Challenge pits firefighters from around the Bay Area against each other in a friendly competition to raise money and awareness for blood cancers. Each department sets its own goals for the challenge.


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Along with Albany (www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/albanyfd) departments participating include Berkeley (www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/berkeleyfd), El Cerrito and Richmond (www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/richmondfd), Oakland, San Francisco and Contra Costa County (www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/contracostaff).

The challenge runs through the end of September.

The Albany Fire Department set a goal of raising $5,000 and getting 500 people signed up for the registry. The department kicked off the challenge with a fundraising day at Golden Gate Fields on Aug. 17, where the group raised almost $1,500. There were 18 potential donors who signed up for the registry that day.

Donations are also being accepted at the Albany Fire Department.

Sanders, 33, has been with the Albany Fire Department for eight years. He grew up in Santa Cruz and still lives in Ben Lomond, commuting to Albany for his shift. He is married with two young daughters.

His father is a volunteer fire chief for the Ben Lomond Volunteer Fire Department.

"Ever since I was at a young age, I would always be down at the fire house," Sanders said. "I knew that I wanted to be a firefighter when I grew up. You can really make a difference in peoples lives."

That's also why Sanders has gotten involved in Be The Match and other causes. Another group Sanders works with is the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, which runs a summer camp for young burn victims.

"It's somewhere where they can be themselves," Sanders said. "They can take their shirts off and get in the pool and not have people looking at them."

He added the Albany firefighters raise money every year to send two children to camp.

Sanders has been working with Albany City Treasurer Kim Denton on the Be The Match campaign. Denton also works on the Relay For Life fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society, and the two organizations will be next door to each other at the Solano Stroll.

Firefighters have a challenge page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bethematchfirefighters.

More details, including a page to make donations, are online at www.bethematchfoundation.org. Or call 800-507-5427 for more information.