2004 Golden Piton Awards: Service
When Sean Patrick was told she had four to six weeks to live due to ovarian cancer, her climbing friends distracted her by helping plan a little climbing-based project called HERA — Health, Empowerment, Research, and Advocacy. After six weeks, Patrick was still alive, and determined to continue the project.
Patrick says that the skills she learned in climbing helped her battle cancer. “You have to use problem-solving skills and dig deep inside yourself for reserves, plus trust your intuition, and be self reliant,” she explains. “Through the HERA climbing events we try to empower men and women to take control of their lives.”
At HERA events, climbers of all skill levels secure pledges and set a vertical challenge, a target number of routes or vertical feet they want to climb. Support for HERA has come from not only climbers but from the outdoor and climbing industry. Black Diamond was the first to sign on, along with REI, Climbing, and numerous climbing gyms across the country.
HERA events in 2004 ranged from the Climb for Life four-day event in Salt Lake City to the (televised) Grand Teton Climb for Life. After only three years, HERA has raised over $240,000, funding projects in cancer research and detection at Johns Hopkins and MD Anderson Cancer Center. Patrick doesn’t take a salary from the foundation, and 90 percent of the proceeds go straight to projects.
The key to HERA’s success is how simply it puts climbers’ passion to work. “People do what they love,” Patrick states. “They climb and make a difference, by just donating their time climbing.”
Next season, HERA will continue to fund promising projects and work on the Rural Women’s Cancer Initiative, which helps women in rural places get to GYN oncologists and pay for the travel and treatment. To participate, visit http://ovariancancer.jhmi.edu/climb/hera.cfm.