Normally he had his eyes on the road, but driving on Interstate 77 to his home in Cornelius, a billboard caught the eye of financial adviser Tim Albertson.
It was a message he couldn’t ignore: an upcoming hiking event, The Trailblaze Challenge, to raise dollars for the Central and Western North Carolina Make-A-Wish Foundation. Albertson immediately thought of his fiance, Kandy McVicker, and her 10-year-old son, Logan, a child with cerebral palsy.
“The word ‘Challenge’ helped me make the decision to get involved,” Albertson said. “Although Logan is not a candidate for a wish, and has challenges of his own, he always has a smile on his face.” Logan was even the youngest participant to take a dive in the 2015 Polar Plunge for Special Olympics. Albertson and McVicker formed Team Logan and will join other teams for the Trailblaze Challenge, held in May.
Twice a year, around 75 hikers hit the trail for the 28-mile, one-day hike, each pledging to raise $2,500 to make wishes come true for local children with life-threatening conditions. The winding trail will take hikers from Upper Whitewater Falls in Western North Carolina ending at Oconee State Park in South Carolina.
“The Trailblaze Challenge attracts avid hikers who enjoy a challenge and discovering new trails as well as inexperienced hikers who perhaps know a child or family that has benefited from Make-A-Wish,” said Chris Webber, development coordinator for the region’s Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Greg Clark, of Commercial Works, is a veteran hiker who has returned year after year and is now a hike leader, leading weekend training hikes throughout the region. Training includes weekend group hikes of increasing lengths organized by hike leaders. “Last year we worked up to 22 miles on a training hike at Pilot Mountain.
“Last fall, I hiked with a girl who had never seen the woods and had never been on a hike before.” said Clark. “We motivate, train and get everyone else ready to complete the hike. We help them with everything from shoes and socks to how to use trekking poles, to how to develop a pace. We also help with their fundraising.”
“We hold two hikes every year,” said Webber, who said that the May and October hikes raise around $400,000 combined. The dollars raised by hikers goes a long way. Just last year, Central and Western North Carolina Make-A-Wish granted wishes for 67 children.
“Obviously some wishes cost more than others, but the average we spend on a wish is $6,000,” Webber said. “The wish is really up to the child, but a trip to Disney World is pretty common. Some of the children simply want a new Xbox, or to go on a shopping spree.
“The Challenge is a great way for us to get people involved who have never really been involved in our mission before,” said Webber. “Even the people who only start out for the challenge of it wind up taking more out of it.” Many hikers return time after time.
The Trailblaze Challenge is one of many annual fundraisers. Upcoming events include a coast-to-coast car journey to raise awareness and funds, the Kentucky Derby Classic at High Caliber Stables in Greensboro, and the Guilford Medical and Dental Managers Charity Classic Golf Tournament.
“We really need events like this and the support of all of our participants all through the year, because we can’t really grant the wishes of others without their support,” said Webber.
Planning is underway for the Fall Trailblazer Challenge and recruitment will begin soon. Webber urges anyone who is interested to watch the event postings on the www.nc.wish.org website.
Carole Howell is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Carole? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to help?
To donate or learn more, visit www.nc.wish.org.