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Multiple Summits for MS: Rallying family, friends, and community support

With COVID-19, safer-at-home orders, and social distancing, things are looking different for the summer of 2020. But that won’t stop Multiple Summits 4 MS!

We’re keeping a close eye on local conditions, and hoping to be back on the trails very soon. In the meantime, we’re getting ready for a new way to do things — including ways for you to participate from home. Let’s all stay safe and healthy, and continue to support the Rocky Mountain MS Center this summer with MS4MS!

How Can You Get Involved?

  • First and foremost, STAY SAFE! Please pay attention to guidelines coming from leaders in your community. In Colorado, we’re observing “Safer at Home” guidelines which limit unnecessary travel.
  • Next, REGISTER! We hope to be back on the trails of Colorado’s 14ers later this summer, and in the meantime we’re getting started with MS4MS. You can still get your fundraising page set up, get your team organized, and start some socially distanced, safe and healthy activities right now!
  • Finally, GET STARTED! We’ve got options! There’s plenty to do, close to home or even in your living room. We can still get moving and stay healthy, and we can get the word out about our personal MS4MS fundraising campaigns!

Multiple Summits 4 MS is built around you — you pick your challenge, you assemble your team, and you conquer any summit you choose. Your “summit” doesn’t have to be a mountain — it’s any challenge you decide is right for you. It’s the perfect way to stay active, healthy and safe, all while supporting the important work of the Rocky Mountain MS Center. Read on for some stories of recent MS4MS participants and their teams.

Brittany Morris Saunders:  MS4MS on Machu Picchu

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru had been a dream for Brittany Morris Saunders and her husband, Tim Saunders, since they started dating 14 years ago.

Brittany Morris Saunders and Tim Saunders at Machu Picchu, Peru.

Last year, a member of the Saunders family needed to use the services of the Rocky Mountain MS Center. “We really appreciated the tremendous services, the doctors, and the staff of the MS Center,” says Brittany. “We decided that this was the right time for us to make our dream of hiking to Machu Picchu a reality. It just made complete sense for us to hike the trail and support the MS Center. And raising funds gave me even more motivation to hike the 26 miles.”

Brittany reached out to their family, friends, and colleagues to share their plan and their commitment to raising funds to support the MS Center. Through emails and social media posts, she asked people to donate a dollar for every mile of their hike. “It was so heartwarming to see our community show their support for us.” Tim’s brother and sister-in-law and Brittany’s sorority sister also decided to join their team for the hike. Brittany set out to raise $1,000 and ended up raising $7,000 to support the Rocky Mountain MS Center. Many of the donations were $26 to represent $1 for every mile that Brittany and team planned to hike.

They trained for the hike last October for what would be a tremendous physical challenge. The difficult hike is four days and three nights and they planned to reach Machu Picchu on Brittany’s 40th birthday in January.

Their actual hike was a harrowing and intense journey involving a massive and horribly destructive rock slide on day two. “Our guide was wonderful and the porters were amazing — we were incredibly grateful for their support to help us navigate what was an incredibly difficult and frightening journey.” The Saunders family and friend ultimately completed their hike safely, saw the wonder of Machu Picchu, and achieved their life-long goal. Brittany said, “It was a trip of a lifetime for a greater purpose. We were proud to support the MS Center.”

Kim Acker: MS Mountain Scramblers

“My personal connection with MS is that my wife, Marthann, who I’ve been married to for 52 years, was diagnosed with MS back in 1976, right after we got out of the Navy,” says Kim Acker. Back in those days, there was no MRI technology, so after seeing multiple doctors and being tested for a dozen other diseases, the doctors finally threw up their hands and said “you must have MS.”

Kim Acker and the Rocky Mountain Scramblers on Mount Belford, 2017.

“The worst part of that diagnosis was the lack of information and the fear of what comes next,” said Kim. “So, we coped with it the best we could, and decided to try and live as normal a life as possible and deal with each situation as it came along.”

Fast forward to 2008. “We both retired from our careers in Michigan, and decided to visit our daughter Kristin and her family, who were just starting their new magazine: Denver Life in Colorado.” Kristin and Kim climbed their first 14er — Pikes Peak — in 2009, and they’ve both been hooked on the challenge and natural beauty of climbing 14ers since. “Our goal was to climb at least a couple of 14ers each summer, one being on my birthday, which comes at the end of August each year,” says Kim.

Kristin and her husband Shawn’s magazine supports several causes locally in Denver, and when they got involved with the Rocky Mountain MS Center, Kim decided to create a team to support Multiple Summits 4 Multiple Sclerosis. “This will be our sixth year of climbing for the team: Mountain Scramblers.”

Each year, Kim directs his team to a different mountain within the state. “Colorado has such beautiful scenery throughout the state and the fact that 14ers are located throughout the Rocky Mountains, we try to select a different area to discover and also spend some time in each location.” says Kim.

“We wanted to celebrate our accomplishment after climbing a 14er so I used to gather all the climbers at the trail head after the climb and cook up some hot dogs and brats in the back of my pickup! Now, we try to make a weekend out of it and encourage all to participate in the celebration of our accomplishment.”

Kim started choosing hikes based on the “easy” side of the difficulty spectrum, but like many avid hikers he’s learned challenges can be adapted to the ability of his teammates. “After doing some 20 or so 14ers since I’ve retired in Colorado, I’ve found that there are no ‘easy’ ones! I encourage our team members and followers that reaching the summit is not the end result — some people summit, some hike as far as they can and turn back, some hang out at the trailhead, and some just enjoy the location and camaraderie.”

Initially the MS Mountain Scramblers team involved mostly family and friends, but the last couple of years Kim has encouraged members to reach out to their friends and family to join as well. “We’re now getting support from all over Colorado and from other locations. Last year we had a High School student from Texas, and also support from an out of state guy I met on a training climb. The secret is to talk to everyone you come in contact with, whether it’s the teller at the bank, the waiter at the restaurant or the people who clean your teeth. MS can affect anyone, anywhere and the majority of people I talk with have some direct or indirect connection with this disease. The more support we get the sooner we will come up with a ‘cure’ for MS!”

KADEP: Conquering Flat Fourteeners and Moving Mountains for MS4MS

KADEP clients during their annual Flat 14er in 2019.

Each year, our King Adult Day Enrichment Program organizes a team for MS4MS and hikes a flat-fourteener together. Clients make laps around the Rocky Mountain MS Center campus for the equivalent distance of a particular “fourteener” hike in Colorado. This year, the flat fourteener will look a little different, with clients taking part in their own ways from home.
Each summer for the past several years, Nicci Deleo has participated in MS4MS and walked 14,000 feet — a flat version of the height of Colorado’s famous 14ers — around the campus of KADEP. “I have always loved to walk. And I really like to support such a great cause,” says Nicci.

Last year, Nicci and the KADEP team walked the distance of Mount Princeton, which has an elevation of 14,196 feet. The team walked 32 laps around RMMSC’s campus to achieve their goal. Nicci took her goal even further than that: She decided to not only walk up the mountain, but down the mountain, too. Nicci succeeded in walking more than 64 laps to reach her flat fourteener summit.

“It gives me a great way to stay active because some other forms of exercise are harder for me. It’s a way to stay fit and more relaxing than working out. I love being outside to walk – it makes me happier. I also really enjoy walking with friends – it’s fun to catch up with each other and have fun walking at the same time.”

This summer, Nicci will join the KADEP team once again as they conquer Colorado’s Conundrum Peak — a 14,064-foot summit about halfway between Aspen and Crested Butte. This flat fourteener will look different than it has in the past with KADEP being closed for at least the first part of the summer. Nicci and other clients are making plans to walk near their homes – safely outside in their neighborhoods.

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