CASCO, Maine — In 2014, Retired Navy SEAL Commander Michael Wisecup launched an event aimed at raising awareness and funds for the good work of Camp Sunshine in Casco, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. The event—and the challenge—changes each year.
This year, it has taken on new proportions and is aptly named the "Peak to Peaks" challenge. Participants will start atop Mt. Washington and finish on Peaks Island in Casco Bay.
This Thursday, the participants in the Peak to Peaks Challenge will have an early start to their day. They'll leave their cabins atop Mt. Washington at 5 a.m., just in time to start the first leg of the challenge. Starting at the top of the mountain, they’ll run close to 8 miles downhill to the base.
"Once we get there, transition to jumping on bikes, from there we’ll cycle about 85 miles to Portland," Chris Kelley, one of the Navy SEALS participating in the event, said. They’ll arrive at East End Beach, and transition from bikes to swimsuits. "From there, the 2.4-mile swim out to Peak’s Island."
When all is said and done? About 100 miles.
"Definitely gonna be an 8-hour full day, for sure," he said with a smile.
This year’s course is a first for the event, now in its eighth year. It started as a swim—the entire 13-mile length of Sebago Lake. Navy SEAL Michael Wisecup wanted to create a physically challenging event that would support the mission and families of Camp Sunshine.
The year-round programs offered at Camp Sunshine are free to families who participate.
I asked him why it is important to the participants to be part of an event like this.
"[Mike] talked a few people into doing it with him so I think that was a 13-mile swim the first year across the lake, and from there the other guys who did it with him just really fell in love with the camp and the staff that works there which is not that many, it’s really a lot of the volunteers," Kelley said. "They have like 2,000 volunteers a year [who] do all the cooking, cleaning, the interacting with all the children, families. I think it was just such a moving event and such a great cause that Mike brought it back to us and recruited some more people the next year and just kept growing and growing."
Kelley said the goal of the event each year is to raise a little bit more awareness for Camp Sunshine.
"Camp Sunshine focuses on the entire family. They focus on everyone because everyone is affected by the illness, not just the one going through it and the parents, but all siblings. So I think that the ‘whole family’ aspect is something that’s unique to Camp Sunshine. We’re all very touched every time we go there, it’s very inspiring. Seeing families have all this support and medical expertise … all the families are kind of going through the same emotions, the same challenges each year, it’s just a very moving experience," he said.
The Peak to Peaks Challenge will happen this Thursday, and there are plenty of places along the course where you can cheer on the participants. Here is a tentative schedule of the day:
- 5 a.m. – Team begins drive up the Mount Washington Auto Road
- 5:45 a.m. – Run begins down Mount Washington
- 7:15 a.m. – Participants finish run
- 7:30-7:45 a.m. – Bike begins at the base of the mountain
- 9:15-9:45 a.m. – First bike stop/break at Dunkin (3274E Main St in Center Conway, NH)
- 11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – Second bike stop/break at the Naples Causeway
- 2:15 p.m. – Bike ends at East End Beach in Portland
- 3:30 p.m. – Participants begin swim/entering water at East End Beach in Portland
- 4:30-4:45 p.m. – Participants arrive at Peaks Island (beach to the right of the ferry landing)