PHOENIX — A group of hikers will climb 11 of some of Arizona's toughest mountains in less than 48 hours to help children who've been neglected or abused.
The event, "11 Summits: Altitude With Advocacy," is raising money for CASA - Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA volunteers are everyday people appointed by a judge to speak up for abused and neglected children in court. In Maricopa County, there are 1,000 children who have a casa out of the nearly 8,000 kids in foster care.
Hikers will climb 11 mountains, starting around 2 a.m. on Saturday. They will climb at night and in the heat with almost no sleep. Each hike is timed so they can stay on track and finish by Sunday evening.
"It's extremely hard," said Jim Steg, the creator of the event. "There comes a point where it's no longer physical. It's mental because you are so exhausted, and the pain starts to sit in."
Last year, they raised more than $100,000 for CASA.
"There are some abuse stories about a lot of our hikers, and I think they can resonate with CASA and what they stand for," said Steg.
Kim Ferraro was a CASA volunteer in Denver. Ferraro is part of the "pit crew," making sure hikers have everything they need after every mountain.
"I experienced a lot of pain and abuse growing up, mentally, physically, and no one was there for me," said Ferraro. "I was in women shelters for a while hiding with my mom. I get what it feels like for these kids, I really do. So for me to give back in this day, it's everything to me."
As of Tuesday, 36 hikers raised more than $140,000 for the 2020 event. That money will go to CASA in Denver and Voices for CASA Children in Maricopa County. Funds will be used to recruit and train volunteers and provide clothing, shoes and school supplies for CASA youth.
"It tells me you know what--that there's a lot of love out there. There is a lot of love, and no matter what we're going through, we all tend to come together as a community and really step up for what's important out there," said Ferraro.
Due to COVID-19, this year only 10 hikers will take part in the climbs. Steg hopes to grow the event and raise money for CASA organizations across the country.
"I don't even call it a hike anymore. It's a movement, and it's not going to stop," said Steg.
Learn more about 11 Summits and how you can help here.