LUMBERTON — It didn’t take much persuading for Lumberton resident Rob Redfearn to agree to a 23.5-mile hike across the Grand Canyon.
Although Crossing the Canyon takes participants through 10,000 feet of elevation change down one side of the canyon, across its floor and back up the opposite side, Redfearn said it’s all for a good cause — raising money for brain cancer research.
“It’s a worthy cause,” he said. “Since I got involved with funding for brain cancer research I’ve realized how little it’s looked at by the research community.”
Redfearn will be Crossing the Canyon to raise money for 3,000 Miles to a Cure, a nonprofit established by Lumberton resident Maria Parker after her late sister, Jenny Mulligan, was diagnosed with brain cancer. What Redfearn raises will go toward Parker’s ultimate goal of raising $1 million for brain cancer research. Parker herself completed the trek last year and will join Redfearn when he sets off Oct. 11.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” Redfearn said. “It doesn’t raise as much money as leukemia or breast cancer but those charities had to start somewhere as well. The [Susan G.] Komen Foundation started with some women walking and look at what it’s become.”
Redfearn’s 23-year-old daughter, Carly, is also Crossing the Canyon, along with Parker’s daughter, Lucia. Both have worked with 3,000 Miles to a Cure on previous endeavors.
Since Redfearn decided to take on the single-day trek, he and Parker have been training by running the steps at Lumberton High School’s football field.
“The last time I did anything remotely like this was probably in my 30s,” said Redfearn, who is now 57.
But the prospect of helping fight brain cancer — and the promise of spectacular views along with way — make all the hard work worth it. He’s looking forward to spending time with his daughter and seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time.
The fight is also personal for Redfearn. He has known two people killed by brain cancer, Parker’s sister and a friend who died about 20 years ago.
“The more I’ve gotten involved, the more I’ve learned about it and the incidence of it is actually very high,” he said. “If it hasn’t affected one of your family members it’s probably affected a friend or someone you know.”
Redfearn needs to raise at least $1,500 to join Crossing the Canyon. As of Wednesday afternoon, he had raised $490. Every dollar raised by 3,000 Miles to a Cure goes directly to brain cancer research. Since its founding, the nonprofit has raised $166,627.
“We like the Grand Canyon rim to rim run because it’s just really symbolic,” Parker said ahead of Crossing the Canyon last year. “The problem with brain cancer is there’s just not a lot of research … It just doesn’t get to clinical trials. They call that the valley of death.”
Brain cancer is the most common type of cancer malignant and non-malignant and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in that age group, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. Nearly 78,000 cases of primary brain tumors, malignant and non-malignant, are expected to be diagnosed this year. The average survival rate for malignant brain tumor patients is 34.4 percent, according to the National Brain Tumor Society.
Sarah Willets can be reached at 910-816-1974 or on Twitter @Sarah_Willets.