‘A walk in the park’ that’s anything but

POULSBO — The varying terrain of the Olympics Mountain Range has never passed so quickly beneath the feet of veteran hiker Julie Snyder as it will on June 29. That day, the eighth grade teacher at West Sound Academy and a group of nine friends will cover what amounts to a trip from Poulsbo to Sequim on foot. Fifty miles in 24 hours or less.

POULSBO — The varying terrain of the Olympics Mountain Range has never passed so quickly beneath the feet of veteran hiker Julie Snyder as it will on June 29.

That day, the eighth grade teacher at West Sound Academy and a group of nine friends will cover what amounts to a trip from Poulsbo to Sequim on foot. Fifty miles in 24 hours or less.

It’s a grueling journey, Snyder agreed, but one she feels must be taken. The “Walk in the Park,” is a pledge hike to raise money to benefit the Hayden R. Strum Endowment at Children’s Hospital. The special research fund was established when Hayden, a six-year-old Kingstonite and family friend, died in 1999 from a brain malignant tumor.

His mom, Kathleen Strum, will be among the hikers, and his dad, Bob, will be at one of the support stations along the stretch. Snyder’s husband, Scott, is also involved in one of the strategically placed support teams, but the route from the North Fork Quinalt Ranger Station to the Elwah Valley Ranger Station will be taxing nonetheless.

Snyder, who organized the hike, knows what lays ahead.

A few years back, she and her father did 40 miles in one day to support the Jefferson County Search and Rescue. Snyder was 30 at the time and dad was 60 but, she said with a smile, he “did a lot better than I did.”

“That one was up and down, up and down,” she explained of the Canadian hike

“I got very emotional and burst into tears at the end — I never thought I could do it.”

To prepare for the late-June jaunt, she and her group, which includes her long-time friend Charleen Hern, and others from Poulsbo, Kingston and Bainbridge Island, have been training each Saturday.

But Snyder said it still won’t be enough.

“We’re going to get our butts kicked,” she admitted with a laugh. “I’m really expecting to be whupped.”

The hike (which is not open to the public for liability reasons) gets underway at 3 a.m. and wraps up around midnight on June 29. Figuring a pace of some three miles an hour, the crew estimates they can cover the entire route in roughly 17 hours.

“At three miles an hour we should be able to make it. We made sure to choose a day with a lot of daylight,” she added, noting that the route is comparable to walking from Tacoma to Edmonds but is a “much more beautiful way to go.”

Kathleen Strum, said while she has biked 50-miles in a day, she has never attempted such a lengthy hike. It won’t stop her though.

“I’m working hard now and when I do feel intimidated, I think of Hayden,” Strum explained. “One day of rigorous work pales in comparison into what Hayden went through for years.”

Her son was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor when he was just two and a half years old. During his short life he endured two radiation treatments, about eight months of chemotherapy and four surgeries, including three on his brain. The final surgery was a specialized proton treatment, which the family knew would only give him six more months.

He died on Jan 10, 1999 just three weeks shy of his seventh birthday. When asked whether this was the first fund raiser being held in his name, Strum answered, “We spent the last three years just learning to live.”

They are hoping that other children, other families do not have to do the same.

Entrants must first raise $1,000 each to participate, with a goal of about $2,500 each or a grand total of $25,000. Fund raising efforts got underway last week but the group is making headway already.

“I think it’s one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my entire life,” Snyder said “Hayden’s dream was to become a doctor and help kids with cancer. Hayden was such a great kid. He really loved people – it’s an honor to do this.”

Although 50-miles in one day may be the most difficult thing she’s ever done, Snyder was quick to point out, “We know it’s going to be hard but like his mother says,

‘It’s really nothing compared to what Hayden went through every single day of his life.’”

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