Bright and early on a recent Saturday morning, U-Haul Team Members gathered at South Mountain Park in Phoenix with members of the American Cancer Society (ACS) for the 39th annual Climb to Conquer Cancer.
The Climb, which U-Haul has participated in since 1993, is a 5.5-mile hike that raises funds, awareness and support to fight cancer in all its forms. Hundreds of cancer survivors, as well as people honoring friends and loved ones lost to the disease, regularly participate in the event.
In the last 30 years, Team U-Haul has raised about $760,000 for ACS through the Climb, with more than $8,000 being fundraised by 62 U-Haul participants this year. U-Haul always matches the team’s annual fundraising amount dollar-for-dollar.
Because of ongoing health and wellness concerns, precautions were taken to ensure that the Climb would be a safe and positive experience for everyone involved.
“Traditionally, everyone would walk the full 5.5-mile distance up to Dobbins Lookout Point and then be bused back down,” ACS Senior Development Manager Nichole Brown explained. “However, to avoid cramming people together into buses, we decided to have everyone walk about 2.5 miles up the mountain and 2.5 miles back. In addition, we implemented rolling start times to give each hiking group more space.”
To help participants stay energized and refreshed, coffee trucks, bagel stands and other food and drink refreshments were strategically placed throughout the Climb. At the 2.5-mile turnaround point, there was a large open space for people to take photos, rest and contemplate their reasons for being there that day.
“I loved seeing so many people hiking together, including everyone from Team U-Haul,” Brown said. “U-Haul has been involved in the Climb for decades and has helped ACS bring this event to as many people as possible.
“Last year, when we didn’t feel comfortable holding an in-person hike due to the pandemic, U-Haul graciously allowed us to hold a drive-thru event on their Phoenix campus. I want to thank everyone from U-Haul who has ever fundraised, hiked or participated in this event over the years. You mean the world to us.”
Remember and Honor
U-Haul Dealer Services supervisor Rosario Valle has participated in the Climb since 2010. For her, it’s a way to remember the people she knows and loves who have battled the disease.
“When I signed up for the Climb in 2010, one of my family members had just passed away from cancer, and a good friend was dealing with her own diagnosis,” Valle said. “Even though I had never participated in an event like this before, I wanted to honor these important people in my life.
“That first hike was tough for me, and there were moments when I didn’t think I would make it to the top. But I reminded myself why I was there and who I was doing it for, and that helped me keep going until I reached my goal. The pride and accomplishment I felt at the end made everything worth it.”
Now, Valle encourages others to join her in the Climb.
“Every year, I invite my family and friends to hike with me,” Valle added. “This year, my grandchildren participated in the Climb for the first time, and it was such a fun and memorable experience. Before my friend passed away from cancer, she asked me to never forget her. By taking part in the Climb, I feel like I’m keeping my promise to her.”
Repwest Claims supervisor Dave Horn, along with six other members of his department, decided to join the Climb to bond, have fun and give back to an important cause.
“We already are a close team, but I wanted us to have a meaningful outside-the-office experience together,” Horn said. “Plus, what better way to make a positive impact than by participating in an event like this?”
In the days and weeks leading up to the Climb, the Repwest Team went on several long walks to build up their endurance. On the day of the event, smiles were seen all around as they crossed the finish line.
“This experience has definitely strengthened our team’s camaraderie and ability to get things done,” Horn said. “I highly encourage anyone, from U-Haul or anywhere else, who is interested in participating next year to give it a try. It doesn’t take much. It feels great knowing that you helped make a difference in the fight against cancer.
“If you want to be a force for good, this is the perfect place to be.”