Here at Hike. Blog. Love. we believe that adventure is for all. It is always my hope to use this blog as inspiration in getting others outdoors and experiencing the world no matter the obstacles that might stand in the way. So when I heard the story of Shawn Feliciano Garber and her Big Hike, I just knew I had to share it with all of you. The other night I had the privilege of chatting with Shawn on the phone to ask her some questions about herself and her upcoming adventure. I hope that you will be inspired by her story as I have been. She also needs our support to make her mission come true, so I am hoping today to spread the word and ask that you do the same.
Meet Shawn, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2009 and about to embark on a 800 mile hike to raise awareness:
“Multiple Sclerosis is a disease not often seen on the outside. It affects nearly half a million people in the United States alone. It touches every gender, race and geographical location. Most people diagnosed with MS are between the ages of 20 and 40, a time in life when with families and careers, movement matters the most. MS keeps people from walking. It keeps parents from picking up their children, keeps athletes from reaching their goals, and keeps travelers from hiking the globe. That is why Shawn Feliciano and her team at Hiking for Multiple Sclerosis plan to spend three months hiking the Rocky Mountains beginning in Arizona, bringing awareness to those who can no longer climb to the top of any mountains. Starting on August 4th, 2012 Shawn and her crew will embark on an 800 mile journey to raise money and awareness of those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Shawn hopes to use this hike to inspire the community around her and to bring together a group of people that may not have the support they need to cope with MS. Multiple Sclerosis does not just affect the patients; but it touches their families and friends as well. This hike is for everyone.”
When I sat down to speak with Shawn, my first question to her was “why a Big Hike?” She explained that after her diagnosis in 2009, as she dealt with the shock of her diagnosis and the emotional aftermath, she began writing her memoirs which she had started prior to her diagnosis. She states that her “dad was instrumental” in motivating her to begin writing again. It was during this time that the Big Hike was concieved. She says that “everyone has their own hike” and that she wanted to inspire others to have the “courage to so something” despite the obstacles in their life.
So what does Shawn hope to accomplish through her Big Hike? The “biggest thing is to encourage others. With any kind of disability, it is all encompassing and your world crashes” around you. She feels that it is important for others out there with disabilities to know that there is support and communities who will embrace them. She went on to explain to me how after her diagnosis, some people weren’t sure what to do and that there was even a “shunning away” experience as people learned of her diagnosis.
When I asked Shawn what she envisioned to be her biggest challenge on the hike, she immediately exclaimed “snakes!” Can’t say I blame her on that one! She also told me that vertigo is something she has been experiencing since her diagnosis and could possibly impact her hike, although she also stated that she has “no fears of actually being able to do it.”
I also asked Shawn who her biggest supporters have been on this journey. She told me that her husband and father were among her greatest supporters and that she was thankful for all of her family’s support.
The last question I asked Shawn was this: If there is one thing you could say to someone who has been recently diagnosed with MS or some other type of disorder, what would it be? Shawn says, “I know your world has just crashed down but don’t give up, find inner strength; be courageous.”
I think it is evident that Shawn has done just that! It was an honor to be able to discuss her diagnosis and the Big Hike by phone and I know she will continue on to inspire many more people on her journey. To find out more about Shawn and the Big Hike, you can visit her website at www.az817.org. To make a donation, you can visit her website or her fundraising site through the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA). Shawn is still seeking donations to aid with the logistics of a three month hike as well donations to support MS research.