What's Your Everest 2017

In August we held our 2017 No Barriers event, What’s Your Everest.  Every year WYE has been growing in size and impact. This was our biggest yet with 130 participants and over 81k raised for No Barriers – a record-breaking amount for this event!

Photo Credit: Dylan Miller, No Barriers

The event kicked off at the Dao House in Estes Park with a chat over coffee and breakfast. As people filled up their water bottles and grabbed snacks, you could feel the nervous excitement in the room. We had all sorts of people ready to tackle the hike: people in wheelchairs (both paraplegics and quadriplegics), folks battling cancer and PTSD, blind people, and others joining to help and find their own Everests.

It was a beautiful sunny day and our energy was high. We circled up for words of encouragement from No Barriers directors Dave Shurna, Cindy Bean, and John Toth, along with hike leader Derek Esposito, and we set off to hike.

No Barriers Warriors Director, John Toth, explains the significance of the No Barriers flag.

Photo credit: Dylan Miller, No Barriers

Photo Credits: Dylan Miller, No Barriers

Out in front were wheelchair users outfitted in special chairs equipped to handle the rough terrain. Helped by people harnessed up with bungee cords attached to the chairs, the teams worked to pull them up the trail.

Joe Akmakjian, a Muscular Dystrophy Association ambassador, got to the top using what he nicknamed: his “personal chariot.” He told me later that he had planned on wearing a Cleopatra outfit if he succeeded in his fundraising goal (which he achieved!) but Amazon hadn’t gotten him his outfit in time. I’d say he still looked pretty awesome.

Joe Akmakjian and some of his team.

Photo Credits: Dylan Miller, No Barriers

Reach Award winner, Ethan Johnston, who I recently met at our No Barriers Summit, joined us for his first real hike. Blind, he felt most comfortable using one trekking pole and had his other hand on a guide to lead him. He pushed all the way to the top of the Estes Cone and broke out in a huge smile at his accomplishment!

Ethan Johnston, all smiles at the top. Photo Credit: Jody Podpora

Besides people with physical challenges, there were lots of people there to help out: my old friend, Dan Thurmon, an incredible performer and motivational speaker, friend and Adventure Race partner Tim Hamill, executives from past corporate events, and even a high school friend of mine, Kristina Mulligan.

After several hours of climbing we began the arduous last section: the climb to the Cone. Linda Akey, an incomplete para, arrived at the top with help from her Trane team. She got out of her wheelchair and we shared an emotional hug.  

Linda Akey. Photo Credit: Dylan Miller, No Barriers

Photo Credit: Connor Koch

Photo Credit: Pauline Shaffer

Photo Credit: Dylan Miller, No Barriers

Due to a sudden shift in weather, we had to hustle off the summit.  We briefly high-fived and hugged and then started hiking and rolling down fast, narrowly avoiding the hail and incoming electrical storms. We arrived safely back at the Dao house to celebrate together, and I reflected on what a great opportunity this event has been year after year. For a 1-day commitment you can experience the power of No Barriers and in a special way, see our work up close.

A huge thank you to all the sponsors who made this event both possible and successful.

To everyone that showed up and gave their time and energy: you are what makes No Barriers a movement and not just an organization.

See you again in 2018!