More About Hike for Hope

Hike for Hope is an opportunity to increase awareness of childhood cancer and enable folks of all ages to raise funds for research. The event, which will span at least three years and multiple states, is sponsored by The Leukemia-Lymphoma Society, St. Baldrick’s and Make-A-Wish. These organizations’ separate missions overlap on the issue of childhood cancer which affects tens of thousands of children and young adults every year.

The hike symbolizes the steps that must be taken by folks, especially children, and their families to face the challenges ahead of them. We, like them, start with little steps. This is an opportunity for folks who hike or walk—locally or across mountains—to make their steps count for these wonderful organizations. Won’t you consider “stepping up” as well?

The 2011 Hike for Hope will begin in early March 2011 at Springer Mountain, Georgia and will cover approximately 700 miles across Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. We hope family and friends of the children who benefit from the work of LLS, St. Baldrick’s, and Make-A-Wish will join us at stops along the way.

If you, or someone you know, would like to join the effort as a hiker, any of these organizations will be happy to help you. The contributions to your effort will be credited to you and also will count toward the grand total for Hike for Hope 2011-2013. My personal efforts to raise funds can be followed at the links that you see below.

Maybe you can’t run marathons for Team in Training or just can’t see yourself bald after a St. Baldrick’s event, but you can walk around the mall, jog around a park or lake, hike the short or long trail, or encourage someone who can do those things. However you and I get it done, it’s really all about taking the steps we can take to enable these non-profits to help others to take the steps they hope to take one day. Big and little steps are needed. Won’t you consider taking one?

Some History on the Hike

Hike for Hope started as an effort to raise funds for the LLS. After my daughter died (see my more personal section below), I wanted to honor what would have been her twentieth birthday in 2009 and simultaneously raise funds and awareness of childhood leukemia. I have done my share of winter backpacking over the years, and thought hiking the Appalachian Trail would be a good way to symbolize the struggles my daughter faced in her battle with cancer.

In 2009, with the encouragement and support of family and friends, I hiked over 250 linear miles of the Trail in three states and raised part of my $20,000 goal. Since I still had more of my goal to meet, I began planning another hike in 2010 to try to raise the remaining funds. Family, friends, and my non-profit sponsors have encouraged me to share this opportunity with others who would want to do the same in honor or memory of loved ones or friends who have been touched by childhood cancer.

More about Jeff Simpson and Why I am Hiking

Hike for Hope was born out of our family’s battle with the leukemia that struck my youngest daughter. Rebecca, who received her diagnosis at 13, fought through the hills and valleys of treatment; her sister fought a more hidden battle against separation and helplessness, as do many family members of children diagnosed with cancer. Rebecca lost her battle in 2007 at age 17, but never once gave up hope that she would be healed of the disease. This Hike’s foundation is the strength and courage my two daughters—and others we met along the way—exhibited in facing the unknowns of this disease.

Folden and Gabe: I think of Folden, a toddler whose assurances of “Me Fine” gave his parents and others in the same situation hope that innocence could not be destroyed by the herculean efforts to rid him (and others like him) of cancer. The valiant battle he fought, and lost, touched many lives.  Thoughts of Gabe bring to mind a grinning, healthy, active elementary school boy who loves to play soccer. But more distant memories are of a bald, wan two year old who was terrified of needles and could not understand why his mom and dad wouldn’t keep them away.

Jenny and Lindy: Our family was heartbroken to learn that one of Rebecca’s very good friends from high school was diagnosed with lymphoma just before her senior year of college. And though she hasn’t said anything about it, I wonder how much she thinks of her childhood friend, and the battle she observed Rebecca fight. A sweet, angel-faced child named Lindy began her battle with cancer at less than two years old. She still undergoes tests yearly to make sure the disease has not returned. The stress and anxiety her parents feel before and after each round of tests until results come back is agonizing to watch.

All of these children and young adults facing a cancer diagnosis—the child you coach in school, or know from church, or who lives next door, or is best friends with your child, or who serves you at your favorite coffee shop…or YOUR child—have dreams, hopes, and wishes for a future. You and I can help by increasing awareness of their journeys, and raising funds to help research treatments or ease the emotional and financial stress on them and their families.

Why the Appalachian Trail?

Well, I mentioned earlier that I’ve been an avid hiker for much of my life, and that to me the mountains and valleys I will struggle with on the AT symbolize the triumphs and tragedies of Rebecca’s fight with leukemia. But I also am of the opinion that one of the blessings we have as citizens of the United States is an abundance of parks, trails, walkways and similar paths which enable us to stay in touch with our natural surroundings and enjoy the creation that caresses our senses and our souls.

In addition to the attention Hike for Hope endeavors to bring to the non-profits, I want to draw attention to our natural resources and the role they play in our health and well-being. From something as simple as a butterfly skipping from bush to bush in a suburban park to the sight of eagles on the wind in a wilderness sky, we need to be reminded that these gifts, too, are part of life and therefore are precious. They are gifts to be protected and enjoyed with a sense of responsibility and stewardship.

So as we undertake this effort, the mission is surely important. But along the way, take time for yourself. Do stop and smell the roses. Listen to the symphony of nature and gaze at the artist’s pallet of colors that adorn the tapestry surrounding you. In doing so, each of your steps will benefit you as well.



About jeffsimpsonhiker

Through-hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise money for Leukemia-Lymphoma Society, St Baldrick's and Make-A-Wish Foundation.
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