Brent Upton

Brent passed away in March 2021

Born out of Loss: Team Honors RFD Firefighter, Other First Responders

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Tunnel to Towers Triangle

The spirit of the late Brent Upton of the Raleigh Fire Department, who passed away due to cancer in March, continues to shine through in his loved ones’ support of first responders. They are helping the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which is committed to ensuring people never forget the sacrifices made on 9/11 and the sacrifices made by first responders today. Team Upton plans to participate in the 2021 Tunnel to Towers 5K Run and Walk in October and raise funds in Brent’s memory.   

What Is Tunnel to Towers?

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was established to honor firefighter Stephen Siller, who lost his life to save others on Sept. 11, 2001. Built upon the mantra, “While we have time, let us do good,” the organization continues to honor his legacy by supporting the families of fallen first responders and military.

“Brent dedicated his life to the service of others, so we felt Tunnel to Towers was the perfect cause to support since it embodies many of the same ideals he lived,” says Catherine Upton, Brent’s wife.

Team Upton

A small group of Brent's family members participated in a virtual run in May to honor fallen firefighters and part of the event’s proceeds benefited the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. “Following that run, we learned that the foundation sponsors their own runs around the country and the Triangle area has an annual 5k,” says Carrie Carter, Brent’s sister in-law. “So, we created Team Upton to support the foundation and to honor Brent's memory and legacy.”

According to Catherine, in his final days Brent expressed how important it was to him that his loved ones continue to come together, laugh, and live life with passion.

“Bringing together friends and family for the purpose of doing something good, while adding in a little athletic competition, is something he would really have enjoyed,” she says. “We are so grateful to all of those who continue to help us honor and remember Brent.”  

Anyone Can Join the Team

Team Upton is open to anyone who wants to support the foundation and America’s heroes by donating or running or walking at the event. Captain Kenneth VonDerHeide from the Raleigh Fire Department is participating with his wife, Jessica. 

“Brent’s family reached out to the department, asking for help with promoting Team Upton and looking for participants to walk, run, and raise money in Brent’s honor,” he says. “Once I saw the email, I knew Jessica and I would be joining Team Upton. Brent played a huge role in where I am in the department today and I am honored to become part of this team.”  

Join Team Upton online

Fundraising Goal

The team has set a fundraising goal of $13,388.00. The number may seem random, but it is made up of important numbers to Brent:

  • 1 - Brent's first station assignment after being promoted to lieutenant.
  • 33 - Brent's Raleigh Fire Department Academy number
  • 8 - Brent's favorite number
  • 8 - The fire station where Brent spent most of his career

Brent’s Legacy 

Catherine says the foundation’s mantra speaks to the way Brent lived his final years.

“Throughout his fight with cancer, he continued to find joy and always wanted to continue to help others. Even on the days that were hard for him, his focus was always putting others first.”

For his family that meant showering them with love and fighting through the pain to be present with them and make new memories. For those he'd only recently met in the cancer clinic, he was quick to make personal connections, offer a listening ear, or provide encouragement, even while he sat enduring his own regular treatments. 

“And for his fellow firefighters, Brent knew his story could help bring recognition to the connection between cancer and firefighting,” Catherine says. “Even though he never wanted to be defined by cancer, he was willing to do what he could to help in the fight to advocate for additional legislation in North Carolina to help future cancer diagnosis in the fire department.” 

Tunnel to Towers Triangle

The Tunnel to Towers Triangle run will take place on Saturday, Oct. 9, at 8:30 a.m. at 225 East Holding Avenue in Wake Forest. There is also an option to participate in the run virtually


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