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Have the climb of your life and the lives of others: Event raises awareness about organ donation

Uphillers head up Aspen Mountain for the annual Chris Klug Foundation “Summit for Life” fundraiser.
Courtesy of the Chris Klug Foundation
Uphillers head up Aspen Mountain for the annual Chris Klug Foundation “Summit for Life” fundraiser. This year’s event takes place Saturday, with both human-powered and gondola-powered options to get to the top of the mountain.

The Chris Klug Foundation’s annual “Summit for Life” race to the top of Aspen Mountain will take place Saturday night, and uphillers can register up to an hour before the 5:30 p.m. start time.

This year, there is one schlep-up-on-your-own option for people who want to make the vertical climb of more than 3,000 feet to the top of Ajax between now and Saturday.

But Anna Morgan-Palardy, programming and communications director for the Chris Klug Foundation, says almost every participant is signed up for the main event.

Hordes of uphillers will race to the Sundeck “by any means necessary,” Morgan-Palardy said. Cross-country skis, snowshoes, alpine touring skis and hiking boots are all fair game. There’s also a gondola option for people who would rather take a leisurely ride up for the post-race celebration.

The event is a fundraiser — and awareness-raiser — for the Chris Klug Foundation’s mission to inspire people to become organ donors and support transplant recipients. Proceeds support general operations for the foundation, which offers educational toolkits for elementary, middle and high school students across the country and also sponsors a grassroots high school and college outreach program called “Donor Dudes.”

“Somebody summed it up really well to me a few years ago: You will always be an organ donor. It's just whether you donate to the ground or you donate to save someone's life, you will always be one,” Morgan-Palardy said. “So if you're going to be one, you may as well help somebody else while you do it.”

As of Monday, there were about 220 people signed up, and Morgan-Palardy says organizers are hoping for 300 people by the time the race starts.

“It's such a touching event to see so many people come out for such a difficult topic,” Morgan-Palardy said. “A lot of people don't like to discuss organ donation because it faces mortality, and to have 300 people that are willing to hike up a mountain about it, it's incredible.”

There will be a band, chili dinner and awards at the top of the mountain after the race. That includes prizes for teams and for the best-dressed racers. People are encouraged to wear blue and green, which are the colors of organ-donation awareness.

Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.