The nonprofit group Climbing for Carleen aims to raise awareness about hepatitis C.
In mid-January, 13-year-old Kendall McGuffey and his father, James, trudged up Quandary Peak in Summit County.
They were out for a day of training in the blustery, rugged, winter conditions. Although the pair didn’t summit the fourteener because of high winds, they saw the trek as another chance to hone their mountaineering skills for a quest that they’ve been on since early 2014.
The McGuffeys have been “Climbing for Carleen” to raise awareness for hepatitis C. Kendall’s mother, Carleen McGuffey, was diagnosed with the disease in 2010. She and her family, which includes four other sons and a daughter, have been on a mission to promote education and testing for the disease.
“We’ve been very involved as a family because it’s affected us as a family,” James McGuffey said.
On a mission
The McGuffeys and their nonprofit Climbing for Carleen began when James and eldest son Kaleb, now 18, decided to climb 14,411-foot Mount Rainier in Washington. The climb was their first attempt to gain publicity and raise a banner in the fight against hepatitis C.
James McGuffey said he wasn’t a climber before that ascent. He and his family moved to Colorado from the Dallas area in 2011 and became weekend hikers. James said he and his son got the idea to climb for Carleen, but they knew they’d need to attack something more daunting and more famous to really get the word out.
Carleen, 43, said her husband surprised her one day and announced he wanted to make the climb.
“It’s not every day that you wake up and your husband tells you he wants to change the world,” Carleen said from their Monument home. “It was incredible, the doors started opening for us.”
The open doors inspired Carleen to come to grips with the stigma associated with hepatitis C. The disease is commonly portrayed as one that only intravenous drug users, tattooed losers and homeless people get. Hep C can be transmitted through blood transfusions and other methods related to medical procedures.