“Is this for Diane?”
I drove to Greensboro last night to hear Diane Van Deren speak at the local Great Outdoor Provision Co., had arrived an hour early, but discovered the folding chairs supposedly set up for her presentation were nearly full.
“This is for the Trailblaze Challenge,” a GOPC employee told me. “Diane is speaking after their meeting.”
Trailblaze Challenge? That’s interesting, I thought.
The Trailblaze Challenge is a new fundraiser sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Pledge to raise $2,500, go through a 12-week training program, then do a 24.1-mile hike on June 1 on the Bartram Trail in western North Carolina. The Challenge is patterned after CureSearch for Children’s Cancer’s Ultimate Hike, which is patterned after the Cyctic Fibrosis Foundation’s Extreme Hike. The hikes, as I was soon to learn, are all extremely alike, and for good reason: they were all launched by Amy Brindley, who is now president and chief executive officer of Make-A-Wish’s Central & Western North Carolina Chapter. It was especially interesting to me because for the past two year’s I’ve been a hiking coach for Ultimate Hike.
I stepped up to the registration table. “Do you mind if I sit in on the presentation?” I asked, then explained that I was associated with what could be perceived as a competitor.
The woman on the other side of the table smiled. “Of course you can sit in,” she said. “I’m Amy, by the way.”
About 15 prospective Trailblaze Challengers listened intently as Amy explained Make-A-Wish and the Trailblaze Challenge.
Make-A-Wish was founded in 1980, initially to grant children with terminal medical conditions any wish they wanted. (The foundation has since expanded to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.) Amy said the Central & Western North Carolina Chapter was formed in 1985. Since then, it has granted more than 3,000 wishes; this year, they expect to grant 230 wishes. She shared the most recent wish granted, for three girls to attend a concert last week in Greensboro.
One of the girls was local, one was from Vermont, one was a 13-year-old cancer victim from Georgia, who was a “rush wish,” meaning she only had a short time to live. The artist entertained the girls for 45 minutes before the concert. Then the girls went to their seats to watch the show.
“The 13-year-old was wearing a wig because she’d lost all her hair to treatments and was in a wheelchair,” Amy told the gathering. “They were all having a great time, and at one point the 13-year-old ripped off her wig, got out of her chair and starting dancing.
“That,” Amy added, “is the memory her parents will have of her.”
Granting the average wish costs about $6,000. That’s where the Trailblaze Challenge comes in.
Sign up, agree to raise $2,500 and you get a 12-week training program culminating in the June 1, 24.1-mile hike on the Bartram Trail. The training program includes weekly hikes led by a hike leader and a suggested mid-week training program. Participation includes all costs associated with hike weekend, including two nights at the Hampton Inn in Franklin, transportation and food.
“Is this for Diane?”