Think back to when you were a teenager. You have your whole life ahead of you. Along your clear, wide trail through the forest of life you encounter a mountain - you can’t go around this mountain; you are standing at the bottom looking straight up at the peak. You’ve never climbed a mountain before, unsure of where to start, routes to take, or necessary skills to get to the summit.
Now imagine that mountain is cancer. It’s a crippling disease that challenges even the most experienced climbers and evokes feelings of fear, uncertainty and vulnerability. In the U.S., almost 13,000 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer every year; approximately ¼ of them will not survive the disease. This climb to the summit takes resilience. It tries the strongest of minds, yet we rarely focus on that part of it, our minds. This climb is filled with immense challenges. The psychological stress of having cancer can affect a person’s overall health and ability to cope with cancer. Young children diagnosed with cancer, these novice climbers, face a unique challenge. They haven’t faced or climbed any mountains before. This may be the first time they’ve encountered adversity in life. There’s a lack of skill and experience to make the climb… and they can’t do it alone.
Adam La Reau founded One Summit in 2013. His experiences as a Navy SEAL coupled with his personal encounter with losing a loved one to cancer inspired this movement. “My mother lost her battle to cancer when she was 58. I found out while serving in Iraq in 2004. In the end, it was her body that gave up, not her mind,” says La Reau. During Adam’s time in the SEAL teams, he witnessed many of his teammates lose their lives, and how their families were forever affected. Adam recognized how incredibly resilient the Gold Star children were and attributed this strength to that of their own fathers. These children grew up in resilient households, ultimately allowing that resilience to emerge within the children. “I am still inspired by my mother’s strength as well as the strength of the men I served with in the SEAL teams,” says La Reau. After his mother passed away, he began volunteering with cancer organizations. “I met a lot of women just like my mother that were just amazingly tough, strong, mentally and physically, and just inspired others,” La Reau says. “It was humbling to work with them and humbling to be alongside them.” Adam envisioned how the qualities ingrained in Navy SEALs could help children battling a different war - cancer. He saw how these two like-minded warriors could come together and help each other.
Adam’s passion and devotion to making a difference fostered One Summit’s Climb For Courage events. At these events, children battling cancer meet their Navy SEAL mentor for a day of indoor rock climbing activities. Each mentor focuses on several teaching points, including; setting goals, overcoming the fear of tackling a new challenge, getting back up after encourtering set backs and working as a team to achieve a goal. This event and the sustained relationships that are formed give the children the strength and support they can rely upon as they undergo one of life’s greatest challenges - battling cancer.
To learn more about One Summit and how you can support our mission, please visit us at www.onesummit.org.