“How do you perfectly articulate the greatest experience of your life? Three words come to mind with the Trailblaze Challenge: strength, compassion, and gratitude.

During the Challenge I was able to find an inner strength that I never knew I had. A 28.3 mile hike in one day on the Foothills Trail? Not only did I think it was insane, I thought it was impossible! In addition, I also had the challenge of raising funds for Make-A-Wish® South Carolina? I was apprehensive of the task. How am I going to raise that? But there I was, after many grueling hours of intense physical and mental obstacles shared with my fellow hikers, crossing the finish line. With the generosity of my community, friends, and even strangers, I had not only obtained my fundraising goal, but exceeded it. It strengthened my spirit to know that I could triumph over the impossible – just like wish kids.

Although I have always known the definition of compassion, it wasn’t until I became a participant in the Trailblaze Challenge endurance program that I could fully understand and appreciate the term. Hearing the stories of the wish kids who have life-threatening medical conditions and discovering the impact I was helping the foundation make in their lives ignited my heart to want to become an ongoing supporter of the Trailblaze Challenge and Make-A-Wish.

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Throughout the program, I learned more about how the organization exists to help seriously ill kids and families overcome challenges with hope and strength. It made each step I took on the trail leave an eternal footprint on my heart. Those footprints remind me that we are all in this together. Honestly, hiking and raising funds is the easy part. Compassion is what blazes a path for wishes.

If you are able to call yourself a “Trailblazer”, the word gratitude has a new meaning for you. This word takes a much larger form than just the obvious. When my 28.3 mile hike was over, my journey was not. I have become part of a family (whether we like it or not, Trailblazers joke.) After the hike, I really started to think about how thankful I was for the whole experience. I’m grateful not just to the donors or the staff who organizes the program, but to the wish kids who taught me more about perseverance and love than anything else so far in my thirty years of life. I’m also thankful for the lifelong friends I have now made and the hike leaders who helped and pushed me when I needed it the most. Everyone played a part to create this beautiful life-changing experience- an event that was so much bigger than each of us as individuals. I will forever be grateful for every minute I had during this transformative adventure. How could I have known in the beginning that the biggest change would be within myself?

So, I challenge you, reader. I challenge you to sign up for the Trailblaze Challenge because you will have fun, you will make a difference and you will find out so much about yourself. Make an impact. I promise you, you will never be the same. ”

  • Mallary, Fall 2015 hiker

RSVP for the Trailblaze Challenge Fall 2016 hike:

Attend an information meeting to register. Meetings are held June 20 –July 2. RSVP to begin your journey. http://SCtrailblazechallenge.org