North Carolina Firefighter Runs 24 Hours Straight, Raises More Than $10,000 For Cancer Screenings

The Asheville Fire Department has lost four active-duty firefighters to cancer in the last five years.

Mikey Riley Run

Courtesy of Paul King

Firefighters are diagnosed with cancer at a 9% higher rate than the general population, and Mikey Riley is using his passion for running to help his colleagues better access screenings that could save their lives.

Over the weekend, the Asheville senior firefighter ran 24 hours straight to raise money for a firefighter cancer fund.

Between 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 22 and 9 a.m. on Sunday, April 23, Riley ran 80 miles around Carrier Park, taking only a few “breaks” by slowing to a walking pace.  An experienced marathon runner, it was Riley's longest run to date.

“I'm good. I'm tired, I'm so overwhelmed with emotions, with all the support that I ever could have hoped for," Riley told WLOS News 13 Sunday morning. "My legs are aching; I'm going to go home, take a bath and go to bed."

His effort raised $10,000… and counting.

The Asheville Fire Department has lost four active-duty firefighters to cancer in the last five years, as well as several members who died very early in their retirements. Riley knew all of them personally.

"A few hundred dollars for a preventative screening or a test can really hit you," he explained. "To have part of that or potentially all of that actually covered for a chunk of people that are at risk would be great." 

The purpose of Riley’s run wasn’t just to raise money, but also to help raise awareness about the health crisis plaguing first responders.

“The important thing is occupational cancer is an ongoing problem in the fire service, and we need to keep it in the forefront,” Riley told Carolina Fire Rescue EMS Journal. “Every time we turn around, we find out some new issue that may be contributing to the high rates of diagnosis and mortality. So there’s no chance we’ll put this in the rearview mirror anytime soon.”

Proceeds raised from "Riley's Run" go to the Blue Ridge Firefighters Wellness Grant, a North Carolina Firefighter Cancer Alliance (NCFCA) program that offsets the costs of cancer screenings for firefighters.

"The carcinogens, the dangers are there, but of course if you can catch it early, that's always better," Ray Allen, a board of directors member with the NCFCA told WLOS. "And that's really the intent of the Blue Ridge Grant, is to allow the departments that struggle with their funding to be able to catch it early for some of their members."

For more information and to donate to NCFCA visit

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