Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In the great outdoors, a common goal

Expedition Inspiration adventures raise breast-cancer funds, awareness

Express Staff Writer

Participants of Expedition Inspirationís Proctor Mountain Loop hike gather in a mountain meadow Saturday to remember those who have been affected by breast cancer. The group was one of several participating in hikes and climbs of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty to raise funds for breast-cancer research. Photo by Rebecca Meany

One step at a time: words to live by and, on Saturday, words to hike by.

Nearly 100 people came together in shared purpose Aug. 27 to raise funds for breast cancer research while achieving personal goals.

The Climb for a Cure and Take-A-Hike activities, organized annually by the Ketchum-based Expedition Inspiration Fund for Breast Cancer Research, promote the health and well-being of participants, foster a supportive group spirit and generate funds to support research projects and the annual Laura Evans Memorial Breast Cancer Symposium.

The fundraising goal of $15,000 was exceeded by $5,000.

"We doubled last year's fundraising," said Suzanne Mulenos, Expedition Inspiration board chair.

Participation also grew, with 80 hikers and eight climbers taking part.

"That's the sign of a very successful event as well as an interested community," she said.

This year's guided climbs took hikers up 11,850-foot-high Devil's Bedstead and 10,495-foot-high Phi Kappa Mountain, both at the northern end of the Pioneer Mountains. Three Take-A-Hike options offered hikers three routes for different fitness levels on trails around and sometimes high above Sun Valley.

Dindy Chandler flew in from Tampa, Fla., to participate in the event with daughter JoDee Alverson.

"I work out every morning," said Chandler, who went on the 1.5-mile Aspen Loop hike. "But I'm not used to the altitude."

Her goal for the day? "Just finishing it."

As she slipped through the crowd at the post-hike barbecue, her face showed the smile of a mission accomplished.

Alverson was part of a contingent from St. Luke's Wood River, a group that included Sharon Kensinger, of Ketchum.

"I'm here just supporting the team," Kensinger said. "I've had several people in my life, friends and co-workers, touched by breast cancer."

Though she didn't have a special training regimen for the hike on the Proctor Mountain Loop trail, she said she stays active as part of her approach to general health and wellness.

"With everything, goal-setting is important," she said. "If you don't have goals, it's hard to fit (activity) into your life. I have to be pretty intentional to fit it in."

Like Kensinger, Mitch Williams of Boise also took a hike on the Proctor Mountain Loop trail. Williams' wife, Brenda, succumbed to cancer two years ago.

"My wife was very active in fundraising for breast cancer," he said.

At the later stages of her disease, he said, no one thought she could keep working. But she did.

It was with that never-give-up spirit that he and other members of the hike joined hands two miles up the trail and formed a circle in a peaceful mountain meadow. In turn, each read names of people affected by breast cancer from tribute flags hikers pinned to their shirts. Mulenos led the reflection ceremony.

The flags, borrowed from the Tibetan tradition of prayer flags, accompany climbers and hikers on their treks as a tribute to loved ones. Tribute flags play an important role in mountaineering and are used on EI expeditions.

"They're flown in sacred areas, not just summits, so we flew them in the mountain meadow," Mulenos said in an interview. "The wishes on the prayer flags and the prayers are released to the wind and passed by all who breathe the air. They spread hope and compassion."

The 19 members of Team Wallowa, who drove from Enterprise and Joseph, Ore., were represented on each hike.

"It was fun," said Mark Lacey, of Joseph. He said he enjoys being part of a group of active people. "Also, we're contributing to a good cause."

One of the unique aspects of EI is funding for research into the early stages of the disease, said Nancy Knoble, part of Team Wallowa and chair-elect of the EI board of directors.

"Every dollar we raise for research is a step forward," she said.

Mulenos cheered the crowd at the end of the day, telling them she was "thrilled" with their participation.

"You will be a part of the cure," she said. "When that day comes, take a piece of it."

Rebecca Meany:

Idaho's breast-cancer screening rate lowest in U.S.

Idaho is ranked last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in cancer screening mammogram rates.

More than a third of Idaho women over 40 did not receive breast cancer screening in the last two years, according to a news release issued this week by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

In the last two years, 63.8 percent of Idaho women aged 40 or older reported getting screened for breast cancer. The national average is 76 percent.

"While we can't be sure why Idaho's rates remain consistently low, we do know that lacking health insurance that helps covers the cost of the screening may be a factor," Patti Moran, with the department's cancer program, said in the release.

The Cancer Data Registry of Idaho estimates there are over 122,000 Idaho women over the age of 40 who have not had a mammogram in the previous two years.

The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms for women beginning at age 40.

Since 2008, cancer has been the leading cause of death among women in Idaho. Early diagnosis is important because it increases chances of survival.

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