BY JOHN LACONTE
VAIL CO, COLORADO
The cancer foundation has led musical pilgrimages to remote concert venues such as the base camp of Everest, the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, the glaciers of Kilimanjaro, the sunrise of Mt. Fuji and the valleys of Rhondda.
And for their U.S. venue, they’ve decided to go with Vail.
“For years we have been trying to find a mountain in the United States that could become our flagship home,” said Shannon Foley Henn, the foundation’s executive director. “For the last few years we’ve been doing [an event called Colorado Rocks] on Pike’s Peak, but in the very first year on Pike’s Peak we actually outgrew the mountain … we came to Vail a few months ago for the first time, and there was a mountain that just opened the doors wide for us.”
Love Hope Strength is expecting participation in the the music/hiking event to double now that it is at Vail.
“Vail made the commitment to us that they’re going to help us make it a huge success,” said Henn.
The concert lineup includes performances from G. Love, Brett Dennen, Cy Curnin of the Fixx, Miles Zuniga of the Fastball, School of Rock and more.
“We’re so grateful that these musicians actually love our event, and want to come back year after year and be involved,” said Henn. “It’s kind of an elite group of artists that do these things and they get so involved because they see the results of what we do.”
Hike, then rock
The hike starts with the Berrypicker trail, starting from the base of Lionshead at the Gondola. Things will kick off there with a few quick songs and then it’s up the 3.2-mile Berrypicker to Adventure Ridge, where hikers will break for snacks and another intimate acoustic performance. The hike then continues along the ridge up to Wildwood, where lunch will be waiting. At Wildwood, you will “rock and roll the breathtaking 14,000 foot Mount of the Holy Cross,” as they put it at lovehopestrength.org, before returning along the ridge route back to Adventure Ridge. Hikers will take the gondola back down to Lionshead where there will be a post party featuring School of Rock.
“The more adventurous hikers can opt for the long way down but you’ll be last to have a beer in your hand!” the site said.
Spectators are allowed to join but only registered participants will be allowed to be a part of the hike and music along the trails. The post party is open to the public.
The registration fee is $89, which covers the hike itself — food, water, the typical swag bag, hiking guides, on-site EMTs, etc. Participants are then encouraged to raise money on top of that, which goes 100 percent to Love Hope Strength’s cancer efforts.
“Some people just pay the $89 and come along, and that’s OK, because we know that once they experience it the following year they’re going to raise money,” said Henn. We don’t have anyone who’s ever come back who hasn’t raised money the second time around … I would say the average person raises a couple hundred dollars, and that’s where our big results are made.”
Looking for life saving matches
Love Hope Strength divides their efforts into two major initiatives: to set up bone marrow donor registration centers here in the U.S. and to set up cancer centers for people in the third world.
“We’re on site at events, swabbing people’s cheeks, registering them to become bone marrow donors,” said Henn. “We go to Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, as well as every concert at Red Rocks. Our main focus is music but we also do bone marrow drives at Nuggets games and Avalanche games.”
To date, the foundation has registered nearly 20,000 marrow donors resulting in more than 250 potentially life saving matches.
“People who get involved are responsible for literally saving lives,” said Henn.
The foundation also set up a children’s cancer center in Tanzania recently.
“This year, we are fundraising in order to send two additional doctors over to that cancer center,” said Henn. “We opened up this hospital with 60 beds in it and every bed is actually filled and they have double the capacity already coming in … the number of cases has actually outgrown the one doctor that’s managing this facility.”
Henn said Love Hope Strength is especially excited about the people the Vail event will attract.
“We’re going to be bringing people in from Denver, California, New York, but there also may be hundreds of people within the Vail Valley who would want to be a part of it,” she said.
Henn said in finding their new home, they had a lot of discussions with Vail Valley Partnership about how to build a lasting event.
“We talked about how could we work together to make sure that this event is a success, that it happens every year, that it’s something that the community loves but it also brings in people from all over the country and the world,” she said. “Part of the agreement was we both we going to commit to making this thing a long-term event. If we kept the name Colorado Rocks it meant that we could move it back to Pike’s Peak tomorrow … eventually we worked out a great partnership and changed the name to Vail Rocks.”
Vail Rocks will start at 8 a.m. Saturday, and will run through that evening, with the final show starting at 6 p.m. For more information or to get involved, visit lovehopestrength.org.
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