CONWAY — Despite showers threatening all day and clammy, cold weather at the summit, Jen’s Friends’ 22nd annual Climb Against Cancer held at Cranmore Mountain Resort last Saturday raised a whopping $80,000, down only $5,000 from last year.
“We are thrilled!” said Jen’s Friends board president Erik Chandler at the base of the mountain as rain began to fall more steadily Saturday afternoon. After the hike, participants enjoyed a lunch of pizza, sandwiches, chili and pasta salads donated by the Valley Originals and other local restaurants.
The total at that point was $75,000, but in the following two days, more funds were donated.
“To have us at this amount, despite the weather, is terrific,” said Chandler.
The weather definitely affected the turnout, as only 390 hikers took part this year, compared to 612 last year, but corporate sponsorship was at its highest level ever, according to board member Heather Phillips.
“The approximately 390 hikers was definitely lower due to weather,” she said. “We had young families who did not climb, as it was just too cold for the little ones. We are typically between 600-700,” said Phillips, adding that their highest participation was in the 20th anniversary year, which was over 800.
But the rain did not dampen the urge to give. Several people opted to make a donation rather than do the hike in the threatening skies.
Top individual fundraiser was Katelin Murphy of Glen and Boston, whose mother, Mary Murphy, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. Katelin was also part of the top fundraising team, Murphy’s Magic Wand, which raised $6,571.
Second solo fundraiser was Barb Pinkham, who raised 1,325; and third was Nicole Birmingham, who raised $1,080.
Placing second in the team totals was the Climbing for Grandpa team, which raised $2,110, and third was the Peg Legs team, which raised $1,620.
Jen’s Friends Vice President/bookkeeper Joann Daly said she and her fellow board members wanted to thank all the volunteers who helped with the event, especially the 40 members of the Kennett High Key Club who helped to work the food stations.
“They were incredible,” said Daly.
The day began with a Zumba warm-up led by Dottie Aiello, with the hike to the 2,000-foot-summit beginning at 10 a.m. At the top, two-time cancer survivor Jeanne Limmer of the Jeanne Limmer Dance Studio led her Axis Dance Company of dancers of all ages in their annual tribute dance set to breast cancer Melissa Ehridge’s song, “I Run for Life” and to Delirium’s “Silence.” Limmer also read a poem by John Brehm, “Passage.”
Some participants then hiked back down the mountain, while others boarded the Skimobile Express for a chairlift ride back to the base, where lunch awaited.
Mango Groove, the local steel drum band, performed as they have for years at the base, and a silent auction featuring 95 items was held.
Chandler thanked all the sponsors, including Varsity Beverage, Outside TV, Lupine Pet Collars, WMWV and Magic 103, Valley Originals, Barn Door Screen Printers and Mount Cranmore.
A moment of silence was held in honor of the late Arthur Hill, who died in May. Hill was father of Jen Hill, the 26-year-old Forest Service employee who was diagnosed with brain cancer. Her brother Doug — who was at Saturday’s hike — initiated the climb in 1998 with his fraternity brothers at the University of New Hampshire to help raise funds for her medical expenses. They then created Jen’s Friends with her blessing as long as it helped others also battling cancer. Jen Hill lived to see the first climb but sadly died shortly thereafter.
Memorial markers are placed along the trail route, with those honoring Leona and Arthur Hill located near the top, just below Jennifer’s.
Another sign along the route exclaims, “You made it!”
Jen’s Friends has raised more than $1 million over the past 22 years. It is currently serving 68 clients. The organization is all-volunteer.
For more information, call (603) 356-5083 or go to jensfriends.org.