PHOENIX (Jan. 25, 2016) — This year, nearly 1.5 million will hear the words, “You have cancer.” On Feb. 27, thousands of participants in Phoenix, including team members from U-Haul, are hoping to bring that number down by participating in the 33rd annual Climb to Conquer Cancer walk up South Mountain.
Sam Austin, director of operations here at U-Haul, has been with the company for 38 years. He’s participated in the six mile cancer climb for the past 23 years.
“Originally I started climbing because it seemed like a good cause and a few of us formed a team,” Austin said. “In 1997 my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and I took on the role of team captain. She passed away in 1998. In 2007, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer called GIST, which there is no cure or cause. Fortunately for me a couple of years earlier, an oral medication was discovered that keeps this type of cancer from growing. This was discovered because of research done on behalf of the American Cancer Society, of which this event raises money for. So far U-Haul team members have raised $584,142 in the 23 years we have been participating.”
Funds raised through the American Cancer Society Climb to Conquer Cancer event support the American Cancer Society’s fight to end cancer. Last year the climb raised $440,000 and this year the goal in $500,000. Specifically, these dollars are used to make a difference in the following ways: helping people take steps to reduce their risk of cancer or find it early when it is most treatable; investing in research to find, prevent, treat, and cure the disease; and providing free information and services to help people facing cancer today – when and where they need it – including transportation, lodging, wigs, support programs, and more.
“The money is also used to educate people to get well and stay well,” said Debbie Cook, senior community manager with the American Cancer Society. “We have the most up to date cancer information available anywhere, 47 of our researchers have gone on to win the Nobel Prize and 74 cents of every dollar donated goes to our mission.”
“I first got involved in the Climb in 2002 and have participated every year since,” U-Haul team member Phyllis Gurtsell said. “I have been the top fundraiser at U-Haul for the last several years.”
Gurtsell has been with Oxford Life Insurance Company, a subsidiary of AMERCO, the owner of U-Haul International, for the past 20 years. She is more than familiar with the devastating effects of cancer.
“I was 9 years old when I first heard of cancer, when my grandmother died from the breast cancer,” Gurtsell continued. “Since then, unfortunately, I have lost other family members to the dreadful disease – my Dad and my mother-in-law both died, as have several friends. I am driven to climb because people I know, whether young or old, people are suffering from cancer. Some are now cancer-free, and I attribute that to the development of new treatments and drugs.”
“Every year the American Cancer Society finds new and better treatments for people stricken with this disease,” Austin added. “I have also witnessed firsthand the support the organization gives to cancer patients. They are also advocates in getting legislation changed such as removing smoking from the workplace, restaurants and removing the advertisements of tobacco products.”
The American Cancer Society invests more in research to find, prevent, treat, and cure cancer than any other non-governmental organization. The group funds research to find cures for all types of cancer, because it knows that discoveries in one area can often help find answers in another. As a result, ACS has played a role in nearly every major cancer research breakthrough in recent history, including establishing mammography as the standard for finding cancer early, discovering lifesaving treatments, and better understanding factors that can reduce our risk of getting cancer.
“Everyone knows someone who has been stricken with this terrible disease,” Austin continued. “Efforts to raise money for the American Cancer Society will help going forward to find better treatments, provide support to those suffering from the disease and assist in prevention.”
As for the climb itself, Austin and Gurtsell will be surrounded by fellow U-Haul team members who are all participating for different reasons but with one common goal – help stomp out cancer.
“When you get to the top everyone gets a sticker that says – I made it to the top,” Austin added. “You can look out from the top of South Mountain and feel a sense of accomplishment.”
“I am very impressed when I walk up the mountain, that on a Saturday morning, so many people take time out of their busy day to care and walk for the cause,” Gurtsell added. “It makes me feel good to see the colored shirts ahead of me and behind me, each caring to be there.”
To learn more about this year’s climb and how you can get involved as a part of the U-Haul team, or simply donate click here.