Evergreen family climbing Mount Shasta to fight cancer

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By Joe Vaccarelli

Nancy Wilhelm has never been a big fan of climbing mountains, but when it comes to raising money for breast cancer research, she’d do just about anything.

The Evergreen resident, along with her husband, Mark, and son, Brandon, is climbing Mount Shasta in Northern California this week.

“I’m not used to climbing mountains, but I’m out there for a purpose,” Nancy said.

The purpose is to raise $30,000 for the Breast Cancer Fund and its program Climb Against the Odds. The Breast Cancer Fund is committed to finding environmental causes for cancer and trying to get companies to eliminate hazardous ingredients from their products.

According to the Breast Cancer Fund, only one in 10 women who have breast cancer have a genetic history of the disease.

“America is really behind in banning certain ingredients that are proven to be harmful,” Nancy said. “Many European countries have already banned products. We only have 10 ingredients banned, and the European Union has banned over 1,100.”

Nancy added that her family has been involved in the Breast Cancer Fund since December and has been helping in its push to pass a toxic toy bill in Colorado and in the U.S. Senate.

The Wilhelms’ youngest son, Justin, even asked a representative of Gov. Bill Ritter if the state planned on passing the toxic toy bill while on a third-grade field trip to the state Capitol.

Breast cancer was an easy cause for the Wilhelms to get involved in. Mark’s mother died from breast cancer at age 49, and Nancy has had friends die of the disease.

The climb is only the second peak Nancy has ever attempted to scale. She climbed one when the family moved to Evergreen about a year ago, but hasn’t gone up since.

Brandon and Mark, on the other hand, are avid climbers and have climbed 16 of Colorado’s 54 fourteeners. Brandon, 15, hopes to climb all 54 by the time he is 21.

This climb, however, may prove to be their toughest yet.

“It requires harnesses, carabiners and helmets,” Mark said, which aren’t required for most of Colorado’s peaks.

The family met at Mount Shasta on June 15 with the 30 other people from the U.S., Canada and Japan climbing with them. Among them is Rosanne Iversen from Steamboat Springs, a breast cancer survivor.

Each climber was to place a banner bearing the name of a breast cancer victim on the summit. The Wilhelms’ banner bears the name of Mark’s mother.

Each person making the climb had to raise a minimum of $5,000 for the Breast Cancer Fund. The Wilhelms said they were close to their goal of $30,000 and were hovering around the $27,000 mark.

“We had a bake sale at Brandon’s school and an auction at the house in addition to our e-mail campaign. Plus, Johnson & Johnson is donating $200 for every $100 we raise,” said Mark, an account manager for Johnson & Johnson.

Brandon was ready for the climb.

“I’m really excited to do it,” he said before leaving. “I feel as strong as ever, and I think I’ll do pretty good.”

Nancy hopes the climb will become an Evergreen tradition and hopes another family will continue the fight and climb the mountain next year. But for now, she is happy her family is involved.

“The boys didn’t get to know their grandmother, but it’s nice that they get to make a contribution so hopefully others won’t have to go through the same situation,” she said

That’s something worth climbing a mountain for.

For more information or to make a donation to the Wilhelms’ effort, visit www.breastcancerfund.org/climb08/wilhelm.