Journeys of Inspiration was built on a partnership between The American Cancer Society and Pack Paddle Ski. One sunny day back in 2006, Matt Flanigan from the American Cancer Society and Rick French from Pack Paddle Ski had a conversation while paddling a canoe in the middle of a lake. They talked about their passion for adventure and their passion for fighting cancer and discussed how to combine the two. It was in the middle of that lake that Journeys of Inspiration was born.
The First Journey
The first journey was in February of 2008, when thirty-six people set out for Tanzania – their goal: to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro; their inspiration: cancer. Every one of those thirty-six was a survivor of cancer or climbed in honor or in memory of someone with cancer. In 2009, inspired by these men and women, another group left for Kilimanjaro. In 2010, 2011, 2012, another, another, and another. We have had over 80 people climb to the roof of Africa, 11 to the base of Everest, and over 40 to the top of Mt. Marcy. We have raised over $340,000 to help fight Cancer.
Since that first eventful trip, we have climbed New York’s Mt. Marcy, countless lesser Adirondack peaks, Base Camp Mt. Everest, and we have returned to Kilimanjaro every year. We spend every New Years Day romping to the top of Stid Hill in the Bristol Hills, where we laugh together and self-snap our picture with our backs to Bristol Mountain, Stid Hill’s ski-sloped twin across the road below.
In March of 2012, at a party celebrating the successful return of our most recent initiates, we had a discussion. One of us, Lisa, had climbed “Kili,” not for cancer, but for CFS – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Lisa, it turned out, had spent four years in a wheel chair in the early stages of her illness. We were all amazed. We knew about this baffling illness and how life-changing it can be, because the teenage daughters of two of our first climbers had contracted it shortly after they returned from Kili.
So now we had a question. Were we just about cancer? Or was it perhaps time to open our doors and become more inclusive. “We are JOI! We are cancer’s worst nightmare!” we liked to say. Paul had coined the phrase.
We are JOI
We were forged by a common bond – to speak out with the strength of our bodies against cancer. Each of our founders has been scarred by cancer, either in their own bodies or through someone they love. But we are not defined by cancer. No! We take it – and other devastating life events – and wrestle from them every last drop of what they have to teach us. And because of that, we share a common knowledge – we know what really matters.
Rick founded Journeys of Solutions to bring hope through development projects to impoverished people we have met on our journeys. Diane co-founded Building Minds in Sudan to build schools in post-war South Sudan. Karen produces videos to tell the JOI story and the stories of others who have something vital and important to say. Elizabeth returned to Africa to work full time in the orphanage we visited after climbing Kili – and then she returned home to care for her father at his life’s end. Calvin teaches math to middle schoolers and Jack teaches Special Education, both as second careers. Terry returned to school to become a lay pastor after she lost her husband, Rick. Ginny teaches investors how to turn real estate into dollars ethically, while serving both buyer and seller. Carol keeps on swing-dancing after losing his life- partner, Janet. Sharon and Linda teach children about the natural world and how to best love and respect Mother Earth. Tom looks toward retirement when he can be a professional volunteer. Bonnie and Jim fell in love on Kili and married the next year. Lisa amazes folks who’ve never heard of CFS with her story and her strength.
Journeys of Inspiration – and we climb for life.
We no longer limit ourselves to cancer, because cancer does not limit us. For those of us who founded Journeys of Inspiration, cancer was indeed our inspiration – to go beyond it, to reclaim our lives from it, to be in the world fully with all its pain and joy.
We are JOI In the words of Rick, who climbed Kili after surviving drastic surgery
to abate the cancer that would claim his life, we are
“Living the Dream.”
Come JOIn Us