PORTLAND, Maine — Most people may be more familiar with walking or running to end Alzheimer’s, but "48 Peaks for The Longest Day" is an event that brings people together to hike to end Alzheimer’s.
“The Longest Day is a signature do-it-yourself fundraising and awareness event for the Alzheimer’s Association. Do-it-yourself, meaning you can kayak, you can run, you can walk, or you can hike," Meghan O’Neil, manager for the Longest Day, Alzheimer's Association MA/NH chapter, said. "In 2013, an individual who had a vacation home in the White Mountains wanted to hike for his activity for the Longest Day because his wife was living with younger onset Alzheimer’s, and so he gathered his friends and family, and they started hiking the White Mountain’s 4,000-footer mountains for The Longest Day, and that’s kind of how it was born.”
The goal of 48 Peaks is to have a team hike up every 4,000-footer mountain in New Hampshire around the longest day of the year. But if someone doesn’t want to hike a 4,000-footer, they can create a team, invite friends and family, and hike somewhere else in the White Mountains that is comfortable for their group while fundraising and raising awareness.
“We all come together out there for a lot of the same reasons and just to see everybody come together for such an important association to be able to raise money for these patients and families and help them maybe find a cure or just resources to help their loved ones get through,” Mel Elam, the team captain leading a group up Mount Washington for 48 Peaks, said.
“I think one of the really important things that people might not know [about the Alzheimer’s Association] is we have a 24/7 helpline, where people are always available to answer any questions, help provide you in the right direction. If you want to call us at 2 a.m. because you’re concerned your parents might be showing signs of Alzheimer’s, those people are wonderful, and they will point you in the right direction. They’ll make you feel listened to, and we have 81 chapters across the country, so there’s always a way to get involved and get those resources that you need you and your family," O’Neil said.
At its core, 48 Peaks for The Longest Day is an event where people hike the 48 four-thousand-footers of New Hampshire. This year, a collaboration between the Alzheimer’s Association and Facebook group Hiking Buddies NH 48 proved that a community of hikers can achieve great things.
"The 48 Peaks for The Longest Day event is a hiking event where they’re looking to create groups, so we just aligned so well with this event that it seemed natural for us,” Ben Pease, the creator and founder of the Hiking Buddies NH 48 Facebook group, said.
“I started the group a couple years ago, and it’s grown very quickly. I started it right after my first solo hike, so I realized solo hiking was not for me, but I also found on the other hand that I didn’t have many friends that hiked, so trying to find people to hike with was becoming increasingly difficult, and I knew I had 47 more mountains to climb," Pease said.
“Even though it’s a Facebook page, it’s still a lot of work, and I have a few people that work very closely with me, specifically Julie and Hayley. They are my admins, and I couldn’t have done it without them," Pease said. "Without their support it would be very difficult to manage the group, especially at the size that it’s at right now, and so I just appreciate their help.”
Hiking Buddies NH 48 has more than 12,000 members where people schedule hikes and can connect with other hikers in the community. Make sure to read all the rules for how the group works on the group page.
On June 11, 2022, 32 teams through Hiking Buddies NH 48 took to the trails to cover as many of the 48 4,000-footers as they could to raise awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association. They raised more than $150,000.
With the help of the Hiking Buddies, this year’s 48 Peaks for The Longest Day event broke the record for the most money raised so far. The event currently has more than $220,000 fundraised as of June 20, 2022.
“We hope this event continues to grow in multiple ways, and we would love the hiking buddies to be part of this for years to come as well. Whether it’s hiking the same peak as last year and making new friends, maybe coming up with a traverse or something like that to make it more challenging," O'Neil said. "But yeah, we definitely hope they will stay with us for many years to come.”