Anne Paparella to cross Grand Canyon for brain cancer awareness

Anne Paparella and fellow Grand Canyon hikers make the trek for brain cancer awareness. The hike across the canyon is a powerful metaphor for the race to end brain cancer. The canyon represents the valley of death of underfunded research. Photo by Susan Ely

Anne Paparella of Kilmarnock recently announced she will again be crossing the Grand Canyon for brain cancer awareness.

“In just a few weeks I will join 28 others in a repeat of a hike I completed last year and cross the Grand Canyon,” said Paparella. “This group will venture from the North Rim to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in one day. The hike is just less than 25 miles. It will take about 12 hours and will cover nearly 10,000 feet of altitude changes.

“Hiking across the Grand Canyon last October was both physically and mentally challenging. The high altitude made breathing extremely difficult and even though I trained hard last year I struggled hiking in the high altitude,” she said.

Last year, she made the trek with her sister Maria Parker and 18 others. This year she will be hiking with her younger sister Paty Kelly. Her brother, Vince Paparella, will help as part of the canyon support team.

“Our sister, Jenny, died in June 2014 at the age of 52 from an aggressive brain tumor known as Glioblastoma Multifurme (GBM),” said Paparella. “Parker, frustrated by the lack of funding for research, decided to use her athleticism to raise awareness and money for a cure. She founded a charity, 3000 Miles to a Cure that began as a bike race, Race Across America (RAAM) and then added a Crossing the Canyon event.

“Not quite the athlete she is, I embarked on the training required to hike across the canyon last year,” continued Paparella, “It was as difficult as I heard it was going to be. I tried to focus on each step and not on how far I had to go, there were moments I wasn’t sure I would ever get to the South Rim. All along the trails were signs that read ‘going into the Canyon is optional coming out is mandatory’.”

Training even harder this year, my cardio training was doubled, she said.

“I decided to go back because there still is no cure for brain cancer and I can’t think of a better way to honor Jenny’s memory then to raise money and awareness for a disease that strikes often in the prime of life. It is a privilege to be hiking for her with my siblings. Last year we collectively raised more than $25,000.

“Although, I am doing this in honor and memory of Jenny, I plan on wearing the shirt I wore last year with all the names of people I knew that had brain cancer and other cancers to honor their memory as well. The shirt is filled with names, but I have the back of the shirt I will add additional names to,” said Paparella.

Currently brain tumor research is severely underfunded. Today in the U.S., 42 men, women and children lost their lives to brain cancer. It happened yesterday and unless things change, it will happen again tomorrow, she said.

“We know that funding brain tumor research will change the future for those diagnosed with brain cancer and that if money is the problem, it’s a problem that can be solved,” she said. For more information or to donate please go to www.3000milestoacure.com/event/2016-ctc-anne-paparella/.

One hundred percent of money raised will go to brain cancer research, she said.

Paparella is the executive director of the Lancaster by the Bay Chamber of Commerce.