Granby Ranch event raises money for youth, veterans programs
If Sean Swarner’s life were an opera, the overture would be called “Murphy’s Law.”
It seems as though everything that could have gone wrong in his childhood did.
He was diagnosed with two aggressive types of cancer before his 17th birthday. At one point he was given 14 days to live.
“Every time I went in for a treatment, the doctors actually put me in a medically induced coma,” Swarner said. “I don’t even remember being 16 years old. It was that bad.”
Swarner’s odds of beating his cancer were equal to winning the lottery four times in a row with the same number.
But he did.
And not only that, he thrived.
Now 39, Swarner has climbed the “seven summits,” or the highest summit on every continent, including Mount Everest, and he’s done them all with one functioning lung.
He spoke Friday night at Granby Ranch as part of the 4th annual “What’s your Everest” event, sponsored by No Barriers USA, a Fort Collins-based nonprofit.
“What’s your Everest” also featured speaker Erik Weihenmayer. As the only blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, Weihenmayer has certainly faced his own set of obstacles. He has climbed the highest summit on every continent and is planning a kayak descent of the Grand Canyon with another blind man.
The event was a hike/run on Granby Ranch to raise awareness for No Barriers’ programs. The organization is all about mindset.
“It’s a mindset that says what’s within you is stronger than what is in your way,” said Dave Shurna, executive director for No Barriers USA.
No Barriers hosts adventure and community service programs for children and military personnel. Their programs cater to people of all ages and span the globe from America to China.
Saturday’s event raised around $30,000 for No Barriers, said Amy Buzhardt with Granby Ranch.
“It was very successful,” Buzhardt said. “Everyone summited.”
Around 100 people participated in the event, Buzhardt said. Most hiked the 4-mile trail up the mountain, though an earlier group ran the course.
It’s all about hope
Speaking on Friday, both Swarner and Weihenmayer had a lot to say about overcoming adversity.
Swarner recounted his disbelief at being alive, but he said it didn’t distract him from what is important in life.
“We should not worry about dying, but we should worry about not living a life that matters,” Swarner said.
Weihenmayer, though certainly an accomplished climber and adventurer, cast adversity in a positive light, saying that it is what unifies us in life.
“A lot of folks may not go up and climb Mount Everest, so what unites us aren’t necessarily our accomplishments, but the barriers that we face,” he said.
No Barriers USA, as its name suggests, is dedicated to breaking down those barriers through programs like its upcoming “Mission: Mount Whitney,” which will see a number of veterans and service members attempt to summit the highest peak in the lower 48.
“At no barriers our work is all about crafting the right mindset for success no matter what barriers you face,” Shurna said.
In other words, No Barriers USA hopes to craft a resilient mindset through experiences that will let participants pursue a meaningful and barrier-free life.
And for those who are facing what seem to be insurmountable obstacles, the program offers something invaluable: hope.
“No human alive can live for more than 30 seconds without hope,” Swarner said, “because without hope we have nothing.”
For more information about No Barriers USA, visit http://nobarriersusa.org.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.
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