Climbing for a Cure

by | Mar 13, 2024

It was an autumn day in 2019 and I was driving down to HarborCenter to meet up with some friends and watch the Sabres Prospect Challenge.  I was surprised that an old friend – Carl, who I played roller hockey with and had not seen in years – was going to be joining us. During the event he mentioned trying to figure out organizing two teams for the 11 Day Power Play.  At the time I had heard of the event, but never really thought of participating as I had never played ice hockey.   

As the discussion continued, I started to think of the impact that cancer had on my family and remembering all those I had lost. Reflecting on being 5 years old and watching my grandmother lose her fight with breast cancer. Losing my grandfather, great uncle, and mentor. Seeing friends deal with the loss of family members to a wide variety of cancer. The impact that it has not only on the person fighting cancer, but the entire family or even an entire community. Carl encouraged me to take part in the event and join his team the next time it was announced. I quickly reminded him that I had never played ice hockey and was a terrible skater, but he said not to worry, it is for a great cause, and that I should think about it. 

A month later, I lost my aunt to cancer, and was reminded again how terrible a disease cancer is. Not too long after that the world completely shut down due to Covid and the 11 Day Power Play was announced as a street hockey tournament. Carl reached out and asked if I’d be interested, and I decided to participate. Then, The #Frozen40 was announced and Carl reached out again to see if I would be willing to skate in the Community Shift for the event. Putting aside my fear of not playing organized ice hockey and lack of skating abilities, I decided to take part in the event and recruited a few other friends as well.  The event was an amazing experience. I had a lot of fun going out on the ice and trying my best to look like a hockey player.  After that skate, I told Carl I was all in for any future Community Shifts. 

Fast forward to the summer of 2022 – I had recently participated in the 11 Day Power Play Community Shift and my wife, best friend and I are out enjoying a wine and dinner event. During the evening, my best friend shares his plans to hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro the following year. We grew up hiking together, so he asked if it would be something I would be interested in doing as well.  After some internal debating, I realized that there was no better time to take on something so monumental – and made my trip deposit right there in the middle of dinner. I knew at that moment that this would be the biggest challenge of my life. 

Time flies on, as it does, and I was fortunate enough to be skating in the opening ceremony for the 2023 11 Day Power Play Community Shift. I was flooded with emotions and reminded again how important this event is to the community and so many organizations. Our shift was the early 6 am spot and during the intermission, while talking to Carl, it dawned on me that I could use my Mount Kilimanjaro trip as another way to raise funds for the 11 Day Power Play. I have heard of other people using that hike to raise money for other organizations and I thought I should do the same.  I knew that I needed to talk to Amy and Mike to see what it would take to get my player page activated for the 2024 campaign – our Mount Kilimanjaro hike was fast approaching, with October a few short months away. With crystal clarity, I remember Amy asking me, “You are going to hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, are you crazy?”  To which I replied, “You are a cancer survivor and have gone through worse. The least I can do is climb a mountain and try to raise funds in the process to support the 11 Day Power Play.”  

I used that conversation plus the memories of my family members and mentor that I had lost due to cancer as motivation while I was hiking. The hike was a difficult 8 days, starting in the rainforest then as we progressed along the trail, we left the rainforest, and the terrain was just rock and gravel.  Each day taking us higher, with thinner air and bringing us closer and closer to our goal of reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. At each camp there is a sign that tells you about the elevation at the camp, along with the distance and time to get to the next camps along the trail. I made it a point to take a picture at as many signs as possible in my 11 Day Power Play jersey. Each time we got to a camp, someone from the group I hiked with would remind me to get my jersey out for a picture. And every time I put my jersey on, it was another reminder of why I skate and do what I can to raise money. 

When the hike grew difficult, I would think of the people I had lost to cancer and smile knowing that they would be proud of me for taking on the challenge. On day 4 we emerged above the cloud line – yielding some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen. Our 6th day was when we began our final summit – starting to hike at 11pm to ensure that we made it to the top for sunrise. That was the night/day where all the hard work had paid off and I was able to stand at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and say I had made it with the help of the team. The team supported me every step of the way to ensure I achieved my goal and raised money for this amazing organization.  The same support I felt from my team the first time I stepped onto the ice to participate in a Community Shift.  The same support that I know the families receive from the organizations that the 11 Day Power Play supports. 

With that adventure behind me, it’s time to look forward to my Community Shift this year and focus on more ways to raise funds and awareness for the 11 Day Power Play.  Whether it be a meat raffle or golf tournament there are so many ways to raise funds and awareness for such an amazing cause. Think creatively and maybe something you really enjoy doing could be used to benefit the 11 Day Power Play.  Who knows, someone out there might get an 11 Day Power Play jersey to the top of Mount Everest. 


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