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Birthday Challenge
Santa Barbara, CA
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  "When someone says you can't do something. That just gets me psyched  to try and do it, of course." 
- Hans Florine in Wall Rats

To Make A Donation to the CONCERN Foundation, Click Here
(more on CONCERN below)

To Make A Donation to the Friend's of Joshua Tree, Click Here
(more on the FOJT below)

What Inspired the Madness?

This actually snuck-up on me. Somewhere in my mind I'd been considering a bd challenge this year but had not given it any thought whatsoever until a friend's birthday on Oct 22nd reminded me that I only had a month to go.

My original plan was to go 43 days from my actual birthday. Looking at the calendar, this would fall on New Year's weekend. Not wanting to organize anything requiring so much focus during that time of year, I started contemplating what I could organize in a month. 

The itinerary was inspired by something called "the world's fittest man," where a few guys have done absurd excesses in exercise over the course of a day. Right up my alley, I guess, but what they did seemed a bit beyond the scope of my current condition. Also, they were spending too much time on things like rowing and elliptical machines to suit me. I'd rather take it outside. So the format follows what they did, though my two toughest things--climbing and pull-ups--weren't on their agendas. So that's how the physical part was born.

My challenges tend to be worthy of some fundraising. What's held me back in the past was a feeling that I might not even come close to finishing what I'm attempting. But I always end up doing a little better than I think I will. After my 40th, a woman told me, "if you'd been raising money for something, I would have just opened my checkbook and handed it to you."

While I think this challenge might be worthy of major fundraising, my goals remain humble. Given the late date and my busy schedule, I just won't have the time to pound the pavement on this effort. But please know that these organizations have been carefully considered and are worthy of your money (more on this below). C'mon, if Revlon can raise millions by having people walk around the block, give it up for someone that's going to have to dig deeper into their physical and mental reserves than every before!


The Concern Foundation -  I've been thinking about this for a while now, ever since my dad got prostate cancer a few years back. While scary, his experience was quite smooth compared to most. Luckily, my parents had the time and resources to research and learn as much as possible about the disease. This allowed them to make informed decisions about their course of action. It paid off, as dad's procedure went very well. He did have a recurrence a year later, and this went very well also. 

Which brought to light the importance of funding medical research for cancer. After all, almost every one of us will have it touch their lives at some point. It's inevitable. The percentage of men that contract prostate cancer is staggering, as is that of women who contract breast or ovarian cancer. So any money thrown in this direction is likely to come back 'atchya at some point during your life, plus you can write it off! 

There are a lot of .orgs out there to sift through. I was, obviously, thinking about the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Then my friend Neil Evans told me I should consider Concern, saying they were a grassroots organization and used less than 7% of their revenue for admin purposes. 

Walking into the office reminded me of the environment organizations I used to work for. It is small, spartan, and staffed mainly by volunteers. In fact, they only have three full-time employees, whose offices are cluttered with paperwork. Yet they somehow manage to raise about $2 million a year for cancer research. The projects they fund are carefully screened and only those that make progress are given funds beyond the first year. It was my kind of organization. Shop-like, if you will (my old video store).

Friends of Joshua Tree - The other side of the fundraising was spurred into action by the recent decision to charge for camping in Joshua Tree, where it's always been free. I'm not against this act at all, but it brings to light just how important it is to have an organization to stay on top of climbing access issues. 

As a small group of people, climber's wield very little political power. In the past, land use managers basically ignored it because it was such an esoteric activity. Now, however, climbing has moved into the mainstream, yet land use management often consider climbers nothing but a pain in their bureaucratic sides. Wanting them to just "go away," they are now quick to pull the plug on climbing as an accepted activity whenever possible. With this "ban first, ask questions later" attitude, the need has arisen for local access groups, especially in high traffic areas. Without climber's lobbying for our rights, we'll find our access to wilderness areas continuing to dwindle.

I've spent most of my life in the outdoors, and climbers are the most environmentally aware user group I've seen. In fact, given how climbers infest small areas in droves, the amount of negative impact they inflict on the environment is miniscule. But in legal situations, they are the low man on the totem pole compared to hunting, fish, RV enthusiasts, etc, which are for some crazy reason all lumped into the same group. Now, in decisions that make even less sense as invading Iraq, climbers are sometimes banned in areas where you can drive a recreational vehicle, harvest local flora, and kill local animals. 

The Friends of Josh is simply the tip of the iceberg. These local groups are going to become commonplace in the future and, perhaps, become tentacles of the national organization The Access Fund. But local groups are the most effective because they are there, which is key. It's easy to ignore a committee across the country. It's much harder when you come into contact with them daily. 

Joshua Tree is one of the most famous climbing spots on the planet, with a history as storied as Everest, yet the Park tries to restrict climbing at every turn. As a climber, your money will not be going to waste as no one at FOJT earns a penny. It all goes to enhancing your own climbing experience. If you climb at Josh, it's the least you can do.