Tuesday June 18, 2024  

The Breast Cancer Fund
Mt. McKinley, June 1998

Mt. Mckinley

The Idea

It started as an idea around the campfire on an Outdoor Action/Women's Center Backpacking Trip to the Shenandoahs in March 1995. Bethany Coates '98, and others on the trip discussed the idea of doing a major climbing expedition to raise money for a women's health issue. Another group of Princeton students and OA Leaders had done a similar climb of Mt. McKinley in Alaska in June of 1993 to raise money for AIDS research.

The Goal

The goal of this climb is more than raising money for Breast Cancer research. It is to educate people about the risks of this deadly disease and to provide support and encouragement to the many women (and the few men) that suffer from breast cancer. People with breast cancer do survive, through the same courage it takes to climb to 20,320 feet. Realizing that this is a challenge to women of all ages and experiences, several generations of female climbers will work towards the goal of all women being free of the disease. At the same time, they will raise $100 for every foot of Mt. McKinley, or $2 million, and channel it to The Breast Cancer Fund for innovative research that will expand knowledge about the disease in crucial areas.

The Breast Cancer Fund

The Breast Cancer Fund is a non-profit organization addressing education, patient support, advocacy, prevention, and research about this disease that effects 1 in 8 women. Here are some of the goals of The Breast Cancer Fund from their Web site.

"The Breast Cancer Fund was formed to shake up the status quo and to create new sources of funding through the private sector to compliment more conservative, established sources. Our mission is to push the edge on all fronts of the issue. We are here to give life to new projects and preliminary research in areas that are traditionally underfunded, such as psychosocial support services for breast cancer patients and their families, investigation of the environmental connections to the disease, development of treatment modalities that are not toxic to healthy tissue and the search for an earlier means of detection than mammography. At the same time, we work in alliance with other national breast cancer organizations and in partnership with a growing number of community breast centers and research groups to share information and collaborate on common goals. Our vigorous and multi-faceted approach gives us a special role in the monumental effort that must be mounted toward creating successful models and advancing the knowledge needed if we expect to obliterate this disease."

The Climbers

These five Princeton University women and Outdoor Action Leaders will be joined by a second team of 6 breast cancer survivors in their summit attempt on Mt. McKinley at 20,320 feet in Alaska, the highest peak in North America. Each team will have two professional mountain guides. A film crew will accompany them to document the climb. The Princeton team departs on June 3, 1998, the day after graduation, to begin their staging for the expedition. Here is the team:

The Princeton Team

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Majka Burhardt
- Princeton '99


Majka Burnhardt '99, an anthropology major from Minneapolis, Minnesota took last year year off from Princeton University to pursue an intensive year of mountaineering in the Western United States and Ecuador. She has participated in backpacking and canoeing expeditions in the Arctic, Wyoming, Sierras, Northern Minnesota and Canada. She is an Outdoor Action Leader and Leader Trainer and is trained as an EMT. Majka has worked as an instructor at both Outward Bound and N.O.L.S.  She returned to Princeton in the fall of 1997 and spent her spring semester 1998 in Nepal doing research on mountaineering expeditions at the Everest Basecamp and the cultures created within the expedition teams.
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Bethany Coates
- Princeton '98


Bethany Coates '98,  is from rural Vermont and a graduating senior at Princeton University majoring in history and women's studies. She is an Outdoor Action Leader and is trained as an EMT. She has participated in countless backpacking trips in the eastern United States, with extensive back-country experience in Vermont and New Hampshire. She enjoys rock climbing, hiking, running and tennis. Bethany has also been an active member of the Women's Center at Princeton.
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Naomi Darling
- Princeton '96


Naomi Darling '96, majored in Civil Engineering and Architectural Design. She is an avid traveler and adventurer, due in part from growing up on three continents. She has extensive back-country experience in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Maine and New York, has climbed volcanic mountains in Japan and hiked around the foothills of the Toreros del Paine in Chile. She is an Outdoor Action Leader and Leader Trainer. During the fall of 1997 year she worked as an assistant scientist for Sea Education Association in Woods Hole Massachusetts. She is currently working on her Masters Degree in Art at the University of Sydney in Australia on a Fulbright Scholarship.
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Katie Gamble
- Princeton '98


Katie Gamble '98, is from Gibson Island, Maryland and a graduating senior at Princeton University majoring in Biology. At Princeton , she is a goalie on the Varsity Women's Lacrosse Team and an Outdoor Action Leader and Leader Trainer. She is a N.O.L.S. graduate and sailing instructor at a summer camp in Sorrento, Maine. She plans on attending medical school after graduation.
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Meg Smith
- Princeton '98


Meg Smith '98, raised in rural Indiana, is a graduating senior  at Princeton University majoring in Geology. Both her mother and grandmother are breast cancer survivors. She is climbing against her odds for diagnosis. She is a N.O.L.S. graduate, an Outdoor Action Leader and Leader Trainer and a member of the Princeton Women's Sailing Team. She has traveled extensively in Chile, Montana and Mexico. After graduation she hopes to teach at an environmental education program.


The Breast Cancer Fund Team

Sandy Badillo

Sandy Badillo


Sandy Badillo lives in Half Moon Bay, California where she is tennis director for both Half Moon Bay and Pacifica's Park and Recreations Programs. She is also a USPTA Tennis Pro and water aerobics instructor at The Colony Swim and Tennis Club in Half Moon Bay. When she isn't teaching and playing tennis, she participates in a wide range of physical activities; biking, hiking, kayaking, wind surfing, skiing and dancing. Mother of three grown children and grandmother of five, she has gained more appreciation of life since her diagnosis of breast cancer six years ago. She is committed to climb McKinley to send her message to the world, "Save the rest of us from this deadly disease."
Mary Ann Castimore

Mary Ann Castimore


Mary Ann Castimore lives on a 174 acre farm in Augusta, New Jersey where she is in the Christmas Tree business, raises angora cats for mohair and raises hay and asparagus. Mary Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986, while pursuing her long dreamed-of college degree at the University of Florida. She had a modified radical mastectomy. In 1995, she experienced chest pain and was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer that was inoperable and incurable. Her renewed faith in God has given her strength and her health appears to be stable. She believes that it is her purpose to give inspiration to others.
Marcy Ely

Marcy Ely


Marcy Ely lives in Napa, California where she is a therapist and teacher in Vallejo. She was diagnosed in 1991 and had a modified radical mastectomy and took Tamoxifen for five years. A mother of two grown sons, Marcy celebrated her five year anniversary of breast cancer diagnosis by participating in the Napa Valley Marathon. Marcy was diagnosed in the spring of 1997 with metastatic breast cancer and has just completed a course of chemotherapy with Taxol. Marcy recently completed a stem cell transplant. Marcy continues to give by her inspirational role in Rachel's Daughters in a powerful scene with her running through the hills with her patient gown and now bald head. Marcy is climbing McKinley for not only herself, but for her sons and for women and men who are not as fortunate.

Note: Marcy Ely Wilson died in February '99 following complications arising from her breast cancer. "Keep Climbing ... in memory of Marcy Ely Wilson"

Nancy Knoble

Nancy Knoble


Nancy Knoble a recently retired Vice President of Human Resources for Pacific Bell Telesis, is the expedition leader for CLIMB AGAINST THE ODDS. Nancy successfully reached the 23,000 ft summit of Aconcagua in 1995, just one year after her diagnosis of breast cancer and subsequent treatment. She will utilize her Aconcagua skills along with her professional skills in team management and training to lead the team to the summit of Mt. McKinley. Nancy recently was diagnosed with a recurrence of her breast cancer and underwent double mastectomies. Nancy speaks frequently on breast cancer issues, is very active in breast cancer awareness programs and a member of the Board of Directors of The Breast Cancer Fund. Nancy is also actively engaged in her consulting business, BLITS Consulting. Nancy and her husband Richard Hinkel reside in Tiburon, CA where they are involved in open space preservation. Besides her love of mountaineering and backpacking, she enjoys biking, skiing and travel.
Iris Lancaster

Iris Lancaster


Iris Lancaster lives in Cement City, Michigan where she is a teacher consultant to learning disabled and emotionally impaired children in the Jackson Intermediate Schools. Iris also has her private pilot certificate and enjoys skydiving. Iris was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, shortly before her 38th birthday and had a mastectomy without any adjuvent therapy. She continually strives to have the serenity of nature in her daily life. Iris' love of climbing and the outdoors brought her to a lecture about the Aconcagua Climb at Little Professor Book Store in Ann Arbor, Michigan in October of 1994. Now she is a role model for others as she participates in CLIMB AGAINST THE ODDS.

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Michele Potkin

Michele Potkin, a resident of Anchorage, Alaska since 1992, began her love of climbing in California in Yosemite, climbing the Grand Tetons and making peaks in South America, Nevado Juncal (20,300) and Aconcagua (22,700). She is presently studying a healing science at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing in Long Island, where she is a sophomore. She is honored to be a member of the team and to help support the determination and willpower of women to fight breast cancer and to use the force of its fatal challenge to create unlimited possibilities. Her participation in this climb is a statement of her dedication to the vision for generations of women who have the common concern of eradicating breast cancer in our own and in our daughters' lifetime.
Cathy Ann Taylor

Cathy Ann Taylor

Cathy Ann Taylor who lives in Sausalito, California is an avid mountaineer and guide having climbed and guided in Nepal and Tibet. She has a twofold interest in breast cancer. Her grandmother and good friend are both breast cancer survivors. For the past two years she has worked as an instructor in a San Francisco breast center training women on self-exam and breast cancer awareness. She was scheduled to climb Mt. McKinley this year but has postponed her climb to participate in CLIMB AGAINST THE ODDS to help increase breast cancer awareness.

The Mountain

Mt. McKinley at 20,320 feet is the highest peak in North America.


A number of companies have stepped up to sponsor Climb Against the Odds. We want to thank these groups for their dedication and support to the climb and to the Breast Cancer Fund.

  • The North Face - has contributed all of the major expedition clothing, sleeping bags, and tents for all of the climbers.
  • Mountain Travel/Sobek - is donating the proceeds from a rafting trip this summer as well as assisting in coordination of Web site broadcasting.

How You Can Help

Assert Your Commitment to Put an End to Breast Cancer

By making a tax deductible contribution you will help Climb Against the Odds take a step ahead in raising awareness and funding for breast cancer research, education, patient support services and advocacy. Like each step the climbers will take up Mt. McKinley, each dollar you contribute is one step closer to the goal of ending Breast Cancer.

Climb Against the Odds is a project of A STEP AHEAD™, The Breast Cancer Fund's program of regional and national outdoor events that invite women who have faced breast cancer and those who support them, to become involved in adventure-based experiences that encourage group support, healing and physical challenge as a way to fight the disease. As a way of exposing the disease and raising vitally needed funds, The Breast Cancer Fund undertakes a number of high profile fundraising events in dozens of communities throughout the United States.

Hear More About the Climb this Summer at Lilith Fair

After the climb, the Climbers will be touring this summer with the 1998 Lilith Fair. The Lilith Fair is an all-female (or female fronted bands) concert series started by musician Sarah McLachlan in 1997. After an amazingly successful tour last summer, Sarah is bringing back the Fair, with 57 scheduled dates.

The Breast Cancer Fund's collaboration with the Lilith Fair is an exciting opportunity to spread our message of concern andproactivity to women everywhere. At each of the concerts representatives of The Fund will be available to distribute breast exam cards and allowing attendees to examine breast forms with imbedded lumps as well as other educational materials. The intent is to provide a far-reaching impact on young women to take care and control of their breast health.

See the Documentary and Buy the CD

A one-hour documentary on the climb in pre-production is being produced by Michelson - Carlson Productions. A presentation trailer is available. Major label artists have donated their songs for an accompanying benefit soundtrack including Diane Warren, K.D. Lang, The Indigo Girls, Beth Neilsen Chapman, Karen Pernick, Jami Sieber and Sweet Honey in The Rock. The CD will have national distribution.