‘Hiking saved my life’: Tucson Trekker reflects on his hiking trip

Hiking…saved my life,” said Kelly Thrush from Tucson. The liver transplant recipient says 16 years of poor lifestyle choices, including a junk food diet and alcohol abuse, were factors in his near-fatal health crisis and ultimate wake-up call.

Though grateful for his second chance, Thrush struggled with shame and found renewed purpose. “I struggled with a lot of different ideas and questions… Why was I able to live that day? Someone’s child died the same day I woke up. There’s a mother over there who lost her baby, but my mother was sitting there holding my hand. I’m still having trouble with this question. I had put everyone I loved through hell.

Determined to live a better life, Thrush embraced hiking in the mountains around Tucson as a way to improve his physical and mental health. “The pull of the mountains is strong,” he says. “It only took me one hike to want to go back.”

Recently, he climbed the popular Tumamoc Hill Trail near Tucson 10 times in one day, but set himself even bigger goals: to give back through outdoor-focused volunteerism. “Trek for Teens is an amazing fundraiser with the goal of getting Arizona’s youth out in the wild,” Thrush says of the Prescott-based The Launch Pad Teen Center project. “All the money we raise goes to helping Prescott teens get out and have amazing adventures in nature.

“Every year on the first weekend of October, we go on a Rim-to-Rim trek in the Grand Canyon. The goal is to let teenagers experience just how amazing the wilderness is. To see it from visu, and not only from a screen.

Thrush plans to continue to pay it forward by supporting others facing life’s challenges.

“The world is a pretty amazing place. Gratitude. Joy. Humility. Push yourself beyond the limits you didn’t know you had, and you’ll find places you never knew existed.

Tumamoc Hill

Hiking for teenagers

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