Teachers take to the trails for Make-A-Wish

NORTH SHELBY – A 26.3-mile hike is a daunting undertaking that will no doubt leave a group of Oak Mountain Intermediate School teachers tired and sore.

But the “Chicks with Sticks” committed to the Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge to benefit children with critical illnesses—and to get a taste of the journey the children go through.

The teachers—Kimberly Ethridge, Amy Miller, Michelle Tindal and Shannon Vaughn—are fundraising and training for the Trailblaze Challenge in May.

Though Chicks with Sticks share a profession and workplace, the endeavor has created a bond among people with different life experiences.

“We’ve learned so much about each other,” Ethridge said. “We’re three math teachers and a reading teacher, and we range from having kids ages 4-21 to not having kids. We’re in all different areas of life.”

Ethridge is a runner who learned about the Trailblaze Challenge, which is in its second year, and thought it might be an opportunity for an activity for some of her friends and co-workers who do not run.

Seven or eight OMIS teachers attended a presentation about the effort in January, and four made the commitment to raise $2,500 each and train for the hike on the Pinhoti Trail.

“We thought worst case is we’ve made a $100 donation and we’ve picked up an activity,” Miller said.

Chicks with Sticks has held several fundraisers with more planned before the June 1 deadline.

They offered a Parents Night Out, and T-shirts are being sold with the Chicks with Sticks logo. Short sleeve and long sleeve shirts in a range of sizes from youth to 2XL are available for $18-30.

For more information about the shirts, or any of the group’s other efforts, email KPEChickswithSticks@gmail.com.

Through Photographs for a Cause, a local photographer is offering $200 sessions with proceeds donated for the Trailblaze Challenge.

The photographer will travel to locations convenient for the subjects, and the price includes digital rights to the photos.

A BBQ & Bingo event is planned for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, at Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Vestavia Hills.

For a $25 entry fee, attendees will receive a barbecue sandwich, chips, slaw, drink and dessert, along with a bingo card.

Local businesses donated prizes that can be won at the event, including a hiking backpack, $120 Massage Envy gift card, restaurant gift cards and more.

Then, on March 19, the Milo’s restaurant at Inverness Corners will donate a portion of the proceeds of sales from 5-8 p.m. to Chicks with Sticks.

Picnic in the Park is planned for March 27, with parents of Oak Mountain students in grades 3-5 invited to make a donation of $25 for a hike and games at Veterans Park from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Attendees are encouraged to bring picnic lunches.

Chicks with Sticks has raised $3,794 of its $10,000 goal as of Monday, March 5, which places it sixth among the groups participating.

If the group does not reach its fundraising goal by the deadline, one of the members may not be able to participate.

“We are committed to our physical and financial challenges, but can’t do it without the support of those around us,” Tindal said. “This is such a great community, and we know there are so many that want to support us in our efforts.”

The other part of the effort is training. Chicks with Sticks will have to complete the 26.3-mile hike in 14 hours on May 5.

Training hikes have been held every couple of weeks under the guidance of MAW staff and experienced hike leaders, at locations including Oak Mountain State Park, Moss Rock and Red Mountain.

They also make hikes of about 4 miles during evenings after school.

Chicks with Sticks hopes the strenuous hikes help them begin to understand the difficulties faced by children with critical illnesses.

“It’s really a challenge, but these people face challenges every day,” Miller said.