The Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge was very unique way to raise funds and awareness for the Make-A-Wish organization. Many of you probably know what the Make-A-Wish organization is... I had heard of the organization before both nationally and locally, but never really did any research about the organization. In SC, almost 90% of every dollar donated goes to help make wishes happen right here in the state. Children with life threatening illness and their families are given the opportunity to escape from their problems for a little bit, and enjoy a wish of their choosing. The most common wish definitely seemed to be Walt Disney vacations or cruise ships. We were told about how the staff at Walt Disney makes the trip extra special for the Make-A-Wish kids by having them wear Make-A-Wish pins so the Disney employees are encouraged to go out of their way to interact with the kid. Other kids would choose to meet their favorite professional athlete or team, or spend some time with their favorite celeb. One kid was fascinated by volcanoes, and was granted a wish for him and his family to go to an active volcano site.
The average cost of a wish in SC is $7,500. You can image the cost it would take just to allow the most common wish of a Disney vacation to happen when you are sending a Wish kid and their families. Each hiker was asked to raise $2,500. Our PBO Team, "The Nightwalkers" had 3 members, so we will be making at least one wish come true! As a whole, our hiking class has raised over $204K, and that number is still growing!
During the hike weekend, we got to meet a girl who had a wish granted in SC. She really wanted to go to American Idol, and to see the Hollywood sign in person. Make-A-Wish was able to send her and her family to California. She was able to see the Hollywood sign out of the window of the hotel room, she was able to go to the American Idol showing, as well as get special passes to meet the finalists. She said that everyone was super friendly, and they talked about everything from songs to hairstyles in what was about a half an hour visit. Some of the finalists even wore a bracelet in honor of the girl during their live performances. The family was invited to the American Idol after party, where they met more celebrities. The most important part about the whole thing was that they got to enjoy themselves and not think about the problems that they left back home.
The Hike itself...
We had never done 28.3 miles in one day before, so we didn't really know what to expect. We woke up at 3am and took shuttles from our Hotel in GA to the Foothills trail head in NC. (There is a very good description of the entire Foothills Trail on wikipedia -click to follow link). We were on the trail by about 5:30am, and started our 28.3 mile hike in small groups. It was really cool to look around and see 74 other headlights single file on the trail that early in the morning. We kept a decent pace for most of the first 22 miles. There were 3 aid stations along the way so that you could refill water and snacks. Each aid station was not only filled with food and drink, but with constant energy as you were cheered into the station, and wished good luck on your way out. One hiker mentioned that she felt like a professional athlete, because she was being asked by several people if she need tape, food, or water. The middle of the hike was the most scenic, Chattooga River portion. It was a perfect day, with blue skies, leaves starting to change into vibrant orange/red/yellows, and the sound of rushing water right next to the trail. It was beautiful to see the way the water had cut out steps and valleys into the rock bed of the river. We saw several hikers along the way, and made a mental note to return at some point to overnight camp along the river. There seemed to be a good deal of fishermen fly fishing in the chilly river. We kept on until we entered Oconee State Park in SC, which was our final destination. My feet were starting to feel the miles, but thankfully my silk sock liners and Keen hiking boots were keeping me blister free. We reached the Hidden Falls trail, and knew that we were close, and then came up to the "Miracle Mile". The Miracle Mile was a bunch of signs of wish kids that we had helped make possible. It was a very emotional and gratifying last couple hundred yards. We crossed the finish line where our picture was taken, and we were again greeted by cheers from past Trailblaze hikers and their families. It was a great day.
If you want to learn more about how you can be apart of future hikes. Click here. They offer Trailblaze hikes in the Spring and Fall each year in SC.
This was one of the most meaningful and unique experiences in our lives, and PBO was very proud to take place in this hike, and to have product on some of the hikers.