Editor's Note: This is a follow-up to a story written in advance of the hike. The earlier story appears under this one.
Three members of the Class of 1987 and 10 others completed their challenging one-day, rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon, raising more than $23,000 for severely injured servicemen and women through Wounded Warrior Project.
Of that total, some $1,900 came from 20 members of the St. Bonaventure community – classmates of the three alumni and others moved by the group’s mission.
“It’s such a great metaphor: If but for a day we can experience such a profound physical challenge, I think we have some appreciation of what these wounded warriors go through on a daily basis, which is why they need our help,” he said.
Earlier story, written in advance of the hike, appears below
ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — Two years ago, Paul Monahan joined a friend on a grueling rim-to-rim hike through the Grand Canyon.
“I had never been out there and I was blown away,” said Monahan, a leadership coach and consultant in the Cleveland, Ohio, area and a 1987 graduate of St. Bonaventure University. “It’s the most stunningly beautiful place I’ve ever been to.”
He was looking for a reason to get back, and found it one evening in a television show.
“I was watching ABC’s ‘Home Makeover’ and they were building a house for an Iraq War veteran who came back and had very serious post-traumatic stress disorder. They did all these amazing things for this veteran and his family and I decided right then that this was for me,” said Monahan. “I began to formulate this plan: What if I gather a bunch of my friends and we do this same hike, but we do it with a purpose in mind.”
So on Oct. 16, Monahan and 12 others, including his 16-year-old son Kevin and two of Monahan’s SBU classmates, will descend into the Grand Canyon from its north rim and set out on an exhausting 23-mile trek to the canyon floor and up the other side to the south rim.
Their purpose? To raise money for Wounded Warrior Project, a national organization that provides programs and services to severely injured service members during the time between active duty and their transition to civilian life.
Among those who received Monahan’s email introducing the Steps For Soldiers project and soliciting participants were classmates Jim Froetscher and Marie (Carter) Lux.
“I got the letter out of the blue, and as soon as I saw what Paul was doing I couldn’t stop smiling,” said Lux, senior director of integrated processes and technology at Quintiles, Inc. in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. “I love long-distance and endurance events and it sounded like a really great cause. I think I wrote back immediately and said, I’m in.”
Froetscher, a sales executive for Aetna in Long Valley, N.J., also answered immediately – “before checking with my wife or family or work or anything like that.” Froetscher’s been to the Grand Canyon four or five times, but never to the canyon floor. “I’ve always wanted to go down to the river and this was a perfect opportunity,” he said.
There was another, more compelling, reason for Froetscher to get involved. His neighbor, who he watched grow from a kid into a soldier, lost a leg in Afghanistan. “So I had a personal connection to what Paul was trying to do and was immediately interested,” he said.
The group established a fundraising website and began training for a hike so difficult and dangerous that the National Park Service issues this stern warning to anyone but the most seasoned and prepared hikers who consider trekking to the canyon floor and back up in one day: Don’t do it.
“This can be a risky endeavor. There are too many things that can go wrong, especially if you’re not prepared,” said Monahan.
Trails are narrow, the temperature can go from the 30s at the rim to the mid-90s at the valley floor, there is little protection from frequent lighting storms, and the change in elevation from bottom to top is an oxygen-sucking 6,000 feet. Over the last decade, the Grand Canyon has averaged 13 deaths a year.
Lux, whose husband, John, is also making the hike, has been logging hours on trails in the mountains of North Carolina. “We’ve been out for seven or eight hours at a time, carrying backpacks and hiking. And in between we swim and run and do a little biking to make sure we’re building muscle, but also developing our cardio-vascular,” she said.
Froetscher, a “weekend athlete,” joined a gym, and Monahan, who hiked some 80 miles in preparation for his first rim-to-rim adventure, was on a training pace to hit that number again.
The group will gather at the canyon’s north rim at 4 or 5 in the morning, hike 14 miles down North Kaibab Trail to the Colorado River, then another body-draining nine miles up Bright Angel Trail to Grand Canyon Village at the south rim.
St. Bonaventure’s role in this great adventure is bigger than just being the place where three friends first met, said Lux, who learned the value of service as a student volunteer at the Warming House, one of the oldest student-run soup kitchens in the nation.
“St. Bonaventure continues to play a really big part in my life in terms of who I am and how I look at things, and especially in the friendships I’ve developed and maintained over the years,” she said. “The fact that 25 years after we graduated I can be doing this with Paul and Jim is fantastic. I knew we would be friends but I never would have imagined we’d be back together and doing something like this – really, for the purpose of doing good for other people.”
And this might be just the start of something really groundbreaking, said Monahan.
“We’re at this age where you begin focusing on what’s important in your life, and for me, I have this vision that this hike could be an annual or biennial event where you get 50 to 60 like-minded people who want to serve, people who care, and, as a result, are raising a significant amount of money for a truly worthy cause,” he said.
Monahan said he’ll wait awhile before pitching that idea to this year’s hikers.
“Everybody who goes on this hike is going to feel like a truck ran over them, especially the next day. If I bring it up then, I’m not sure many would raise their hands and say, yeah, I’ll be there,” he said with a laugh.
Those who wish to support the Steps For Soldiers project may do so through a fundraising website. The site describes the project in detail and offers a look at all of the participants. (Go to Steps For Soldiers site.)
All contributions go directly to Wounded Warrior Project.
About the University: Inspired for more than 150 years by the Catholic Franciscan values of individual dignity, community inclusiveness, and service, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them
Application forms, procedures and additional information
There are many ways to experience
St. Bonaventure for yourself
Learn more about the programs that interest you