Have you decided on your New Year’s resolution?
If you’re a hard-core hiker or have set big fitness goals for 2022 and you’re looking for your first challenge, how about choosing one that can make wishes come true for kids with critical illnesses?
The 2022 Make-A-Wish Central & Western North Carolina Trailblaze Challenge fits both those bills, and registration has just opened.
The Trailblaze Challenge should have the word “Challenge” underscored. It begins with 12 weeks of socially distanced training hikes, primarily in Asheville, Charlotte, and Greensboro areas to prepare the hikers for the rigors of a 28.3 mile one-day hike on the Foothills Trail in May. As well as being an extraordinary physical test, the true challenge is to raise much needed funds to grant the wishes of children in Central & Western North Carolina.
The scenic, but physically demanding trek will provide “adventure, fitness and fun,” according to Make-A-Wish Central & Western North Carolina, and help the organization fulfill wishes that have been on hold or on a waiting list. As of this week, there are over 538 local children on that waiting list — including 300 in the Charlotte area and 90 in the Western region.
“Most people who sign up for this program have minimal connection to the cause or know very little about our Make-A-Wish chapter,” said Emily Gibson, Community Development Director at Make-A-Wish CWNC. “We focus on the adventure and journey aspects of the program and enjoy sharing the mission throughout the process, so that everyone has a deep connection to our wish kids by the big hike day!”
“It really is a program unlike any other,” she said. “There have been incredible displays of mental fortitude, new friendships formed, physical transformations. Since 2013, over 1500 people have taken on the challenge and more the $5.5 million has been raised to grant wishes!”
Bronwyn Burleson, who has done the challenge 3 times since 2017 shared with us the impact the hike had on her.
“I did the hike originally because I knew a family whose child had passed away. We formed a team in honor of their child who had been granted a wish, Olivia’s Trail Warriors. Her wish was life-changing for her and her family. She got to be a kid for an entire week – no doctors, no tests and no surgeries.”
Burleson shared that her favorite part of the event is the community of alumni, hikers, and volunteers.
“And I made some AMAZING, lifelong friends that I would not have met otherwise. I describe the hike weekend as a bubble of love… Whether you do it once or become addicted to it like some do, you will not regret a single minute of the journey. You will be a Trailblazer for life!”
Those interested in participating can visit trailblazechallenge.org to RSVP for an informational meeting. Info meetings will be held via zoom in January and training hikes will start in February. The 2022 Spring Hikes will take place May 20-22 and June 3-5.