Moving mountains: Hiker climbs to help kids with cancer

Jun 7, 2022

MATTAPOISETT — Meg McCullough of Mattapoisett has long loved the challenge of conquering the peaks of mountains. And as she dominated seven New Hampshire summits the weekend of June 4 and 5, she also was a champion for children in New England impacted by cancer.

The 20-year-old is one of 14 camp champions for Camp Casco, a non-profit group that offers summer camp programs for children impacted by cancer. 

Camp Champions are charged with raising enough money to send one child to camp free of charge, and completing an intense hike in New Hampshire. This is the second year McCullough has been a Camp Champion.

“I’ve always been interested in mountains and hiking,” McCullough said. “I was looking and saw a post from one of my friends on Facebook about this opportunity and I thought it was a really cool thing to combine my interest and do some good with it.”

McCullough is a 2020 graduate of ORR and now attends Bridgewater State University, where she is on the track team. An injury last year left her unable to do the hike, but she still raised the money to send a child to camp. 

Ahead of this year’s hike across the Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire, McCullough prepared with cross-training, biking, running and hiking. She did all that while raising money for Camp Casco once again.

Camp Champions is one of two hike programs that took place on the same weekend. Between Camp Champions and the other hike program, Trail Blazers, more than $70,000 has been raised. 

“I’ve been super grateful with my friends and family supporting it and spreading it around,” she said. “I posted it on all my social media… I go hiking too and people will see I’m wearing Camp Casco things, and they’ll say, ‘Oh what’s that?’ And I’ll tell them about the cause.”

The hike is a 23-mile journey across seven of the state’s summits, each at least 4,000 feet high. McCullough completed the hike alongside the other champions.

“We were going much faster than we were expecting to, which was exciting,” McCullough said following the challenge. “We had really great weather and it was really fun to see everyone and get together to celebrate what we had accomplished.”

Camp Casco has several different programs, including a six-day overnight camp for cancer patients and cancer survivors, ages seven to 17. The campsite is in Groton, in a setting the organization says is surrounded by tall trees and overlooking a lake.

As more children survive cancer thanks to improving treatment options, there is a growing need for emotional support for survivors, camp representatives said. The group says surviving cancer can take a major emotional toll on children, including fear of recurrence, low self-esteem and trouble connecting with peers.

The camp aims to create a space for kids to “reclaim their childhood’’ by relating and playing with each other.

Each champion is hiking in honor of a specific camper. For McCullough, that camper is named Annie.

“The genuine hard work that everyone involved in the program puts into it and how much they actually care about the program, I think is really neat,” McCullough said. “They actually stay connected with these families for years at a time and families keep coming back because of the support they feel and the amount of community they have at this camp.”