Challenge yourself + support Alabama children in need. Here’s how

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Trailblaze Challenge, Make-A-Wish Alabama
Kick off a new journey in 2021. Photo via Make-A-Wish Alabama

Hiking 26.3 miles in one day is a life-changing experience, and not just for the person doing it. Make-A-Wish Alabama has a unique opportunity to bring wishes to life for children with critical illnesses in Alabama, all while challenging yourself in 2021. Read on to see how you can become a Trailblazer!

The Challenge at a Glance

hiking in Birmingham
Training hikes will look a little different this year, but you’ll still get to build community with your fellow hikers. Photo via Make-A-Wish Alabama

The Alabama Trailblaze Challenge is celebrating its 5-year anniversary in 2021. In that time, hundreds of Alabamians of all ages and backgrounds have taken on the challenge to hike 26.3 miles in one day.

A fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Alabama, the Alabama Trailblaze Challenge offers all the support and tools you need to complete the hike on the nationally-acclaimed Pinhoti Trail.

The event will take place in April and May 2021, with a 12-week training period leading up to the event. Trailblazing might be for you if you’re interested in:

  • Crushing your 2021 health + fitness goals
  • Getting plugged in with a new community of adventurous locals
  • Granting wishes for Alabama children with critical illnesses

Sign up for a no-commitment info session to get started.

Who it Supports

Make-A-Wish Alabama
Give the gift of hope in 2021. Photo via Make-A-Wish Alabama

Make-A-Wish Alabama is a nonprofit that brings wishes to life for children with life-threatening illnesses in the state of Alabama.

When you donate to this organization or participate in a fundraiser like the Trailblaze Challenge, those funds stay in the state and support children and families in your community.

Currently, over 250 children in the state of Alabama are waiting on a wish. Participants in the Trailblaze Challenge have a hand in bringing life-changing wishes to life for these children and their families.

“This year I will take on my 6th Trailblaze Challenge… My first Challenge was a life-changing event. I made friends for a lifetime and found a purpose for my life. I fell in love with the Make-A-Wish mission.”

Jan Belcher, 6-time Trailblazer

There are training groups in Birmingham and Huntsville, but the hike is open to participants statewide—so be sure to recruit your friends and family from all over Alabama. Hotel accommodations and food are included for your hike weekend!

How to Become a Trailblazer

Pinhoti Trail
Nothing like a finish line feeling. Photo via Make-A-Wish Alabama

If you’re interested, be sure to sign up for a virtual or in-person info session ASAP. The 2020 season filled up before the deadline last year, so don’t wait. Here’s a preview of the timeline:

  • Info Sessions: January 9-January 24
  • Deadline to register: January 27
  • Hike Weekend One: April 30-May 2
  • Hike Weekend Two: May 14-May 16

Info sessions are free and have no commitment attached, and Make-A-Wish Alabama will be holding virtual options so you can tune in from a distance. They’ll cover everything you need to know about the hike, and you’ll have the chance to ask any questions you may have.

RSVP for an info session here.

26.3 miles in a day may sound intimidating, but the challenge provides everything you need to complete it, no matter your hike experience, age or fitness level.

You’ll attend guided training hikes and receive guidance on gear and technique leading up to the hike. On hike day, everything from water to snacks to medical aid will all be provided for you.

“It’s a beautiful journey. And the trail, well, she’s a beautiful place. And you’re going to meet people who have a heart to make wishes come true for kids. There will be days where the trail hurts. There will be cussing. There will be mud.

There will be smiles. There will be laughter. There will be friendships you never expected. There will be moments you see in others that inspire you to keep going. And there will be moments that others look at you and find their inspiration.”

Stephen Gutshall, Hike Alumni

Stay Safe While Changing Lives

Make-A-Wish, hiking in Birmingham
Are you ready to say yes? Photo via Make-A-Wish Alabama

According to the CDC, hiking outdoors is one of the safest activities in which you can participate. It’s also one of the most stunning—training hikes will take place on some of Alabama and Tennessee’s most beautiful trails.

During training hikes and hike weekends, Make-A-Wish Alabama has put safety measures in place to make sure all participants stay healthy and ready to hit the trails.

Temperature checks, masks, and social distancing will be required at all in-person meetings. During the hike weekend, participants are placed in their own rooms, and transportation is spread out to maintain social distancing.

“When I heard about the Trailblaze Challenge, an endurance hike to raise funds for Make-A-Wish Alabama, it immediately resonated with me. Thinking of the Wish Kids and their journeys, which no doubt make them and their families feel helpless and out of control of their own bodies and wellbeing…it took me back to my feeling of helplessness several years ago.

It’s hard to describe, but knowing I could funnel my energy into something that could bring them hope or light in the midst of uncertainty or pain…it felt powerful and worthy of the effort.”

Hannah Pruitt, Hike Alumni

Want to see more? Search the hashtag #AlabamaTrailblaze on Facebook and Instagram to get an inside look from people who have completed the challenge.

Don’t forget to sign up for an info session to take your first step on this life-changing journey.

Hike 26.3 miles. Grant wishes. Adventure awaits—become a Trailblazer today!

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Beth Cunningham
A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.
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