Kim Shannon, of Bethel, holds a walking stick that once belonged to Hailey, who died in 2017 of a childhood cancer. Her mother, Tabaitha Steward, asked Shannon to take the walking stick with him when he starts hiking in February.

BETHEL — Hiking the Appalachian Trail has been on Bethel resident Kim Shannon’s bucket list for more than 40 years, and by next summer, he may be able to cross it off.

Shannon is not only doing it for personal achievement, but for a cause much bigger and one that he can relate to on a personal level. He will be hiking to help raise money for childhood cancer awareness. All the money Shannon receives will go directly to Team Hailey Hugs, a nonprofit charitable organization that gives money to Maine families affected by childhood cancer.

The organization was founded by Tabaitha Steward in 2012, when her daughter, Hailey, was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Hailey died in September 2017, after a five-year battle, but her legacy has continued. Shannon, who has fought non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since 1998, has had his fair share of ups and downs with the disease, and said with all the second chances he’s had, he feels it’s only necessary to do something “special.”

“It’s an honor he wants to do something that he loves, to honor Hailey who also loved hiking. She was like a little warrior on the trails so I know she’ll be with him,” Steward said. ” Personally I’m overwhelmed with gratitude because he knows what these kids go through. He’s been fighting this horrible disease for about 20 years.”

“I just sort of woke up one day and decided that this is what I am going to do,” Shannon said. “I wanted to do something for the kids, medical-wise.”

His goal is to raise $25,000 for Team Hailey Hugs. The official name of his adventure is “Hiking For A Cause, Childhood Cancer.”

Maine currently has the sixth-highest rate of pediatric cancer in the country and the third-highest in the Northeast.

Shannon officially made the decision to hike the trail a couple of months ago.

He will travel down to Georgia (where the trail begins) in February and hopes to be on the trail on the early morning of Feb. 15.

Earlier this year, Shannon had a CAR T-cell immunotherapy transplant in Boston. The process was experimental. He was told by Massachusetts General Hospital that he was the first non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patient to have it done.

“They went over the pros and cons of the process and there were more cons than pros but I went through with it because I figured it’d be good to know how well it worked,” Shannon said.

Ever since the procedure he has felt “stronger” and “healthier” and said now is the time to take on his more than four decade old dream.

“I figure six months of hiking beats the heck out of 21 years of cancer,” the 59-year-old said.

He will be celebrating his 60th birthday on the trail in March.

Shannon plans to start preparing for the 2,220 mile long journey soon, which will begin with him walking on a treadmill.

His job driving for both Uber and Lyft has also paid off, having given rides to between 30 and 40 Appalachian hikers in the past year. Often, Shannon would pick the hikers’ brains, asking for advice on how to stay safe on the trail, but also to just hear about their overall experiences.

The hikers informed Shannon of certain places to be aware of on the trail and told him about certain apps he may want to download on his phone, to make his journey easier.

It’s safe to say the conversations were beneficial.

He’s spoken with hikers for the past two years and they told him to start off at 5-7 miles a day for at least a week and then slowly increase from there.

“I am ready to go. I am really excited about going. If I can’t do it I can always turn back, but that’s not on my agenda. I plan to be a thru-hiker,” he said.

As of now he plans to hike by himself, but is open to having people join him if they are up for the challenge. He said he will be in contact with family throughout his adventure.

People who want to donate can go to Shannon’s Facebook profile (Kim Shannon) and a tab will be visible immediately asking people if they want to donate. Anyone who wants to know more about Shannon’s hike can reach him at 207-595-3072, through Facebook Messenger or by email at [email protected]

People interested in learning more about Team Hailey Hugs’ mission can visit HaileyHugs.org.

 

 

 

 


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