Firefighters are known for impacting lives and making a difference. This spring, a City of Hendersonville firefighter is stepping out of the fire station and trading his air pack for a backpack to raise money for Make-A-Wish of Central and Western North Carolina.
On Saturday, June 1, 2019, Engineer John Herring will be participating in the Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge. The event is a 28.3 mile single day hike on the Foothills Trail in South Carolina. Participants are challenged to complete this physically demanding feat as well as raise much needed funds to grant the wishes of local children with critical illnesses.
“I love to hike, that’s a passion of mine,” said John Herring. “Usually you are just hiking for yourself as a way to go out and explore. I thought, why not do it for some kids and use hiking as a way to help someone else.”
Herring began employment with the Hendersonville Fire Department in 2014 after serving as an EMT for four years in Florida. He said that he enjoys working as a firefighter in Western NC as well as all the great hiking opportunities the area offers. Looking Glass Rock is one of his favorite local hiking spots. He also enjoys hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains and completing sections of the Appalachian Trail.
“I do a section (of the Appalachian Trail) a couple times a year,” said Herring. “I have some family that come up and we hike together.” So far Herring has completed 164 miles of the A.T., from Springer Mountain, GA to Fontana Dam. He would like to continue to piece sections together until he has completed the trail in its entirety.
In the past, Herring has hiked 20 miles in a day on the Appalachian Trail, but the Trailblaze Challenge will be the biggest hike he has ever completed in one day. In order to train, he has been hiking with family and meeting up with other Trailblaze Challenge participants for weekend hikes. Herring explained that the training hikes are a great way to build up mileage, network and get fundraising ideas.
Herring has a goal of raising $2,500 that will go toward a local child’s wish. He said it takes an average of $6,000 to make one child’s wish a reality, so he will continue to accept donations even if he reaches the initial goal. Any donations made to Make-A-Wish are tax deductible and Herring said no contribution is too big or too small.
Herring’s firefighting peers have been supportive since he announced his intention to participate in the event. The Hendersonville Professional Firefighters Association has pledged $500 to support the cause.
“John has a huge heart and it shows in his interactions with the public on emergency scenes, as well as his participation with our association wanting to help his fellow firefighters,” said Thomas Kleppe, President of the Hendersonville Professional Firefighters Association. “When John approached our group about a fundraising opportunity it was never a question and our members jumped at the chance to sponsor him for a cause we all believe in.”
John Herring’s fundraising page can be found at wish.org/site/TR?px=4647857&pg=personal&fr_id=3010
More information about the Trailblaze Challenge can be found at nc.wish.org/ways-to-help/special-events/trailblaze-challenge.