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Taking A Hike

GC Daniel Gale ad coordinator goes on Grand Canyon walkabout for charity

According to grandcanyonhiker.com, May through September are considered the most dangerous months of the year to be traipsing through this geological marvel. And while most of the warnings regarding the dangers of heat stroke, dehydration and sunburn apply to the Inner Gorge, where temperatures can hover around 106 degrees in the shade, (of which there’s none), donning Timberlands and attempting to hike any of the foreboding terrain that constitutes the Grand Canyon is still quite a formidable task. But this is exactly what Kevin Wohlers intends to do when he laces his boots up on May 19, hits the Grandview Trailhead, a more temperate but no less difficult rim-to-rim hike and takes the first steps towards raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

An advertising coordinator working out of the Daniel Gale International Realty Garden City office, Wohlers is the independent owner of Kevin J. Wohlers Photography, a business specializing in real estate and landscapes. And while every year since 1990, he’s made a point of picking a different charity to work with, this year’s endeavor has a more personal bent as he’s doing it in memory of Donna Marie Composto, a former co-worker at Daniel Gale who passed away from leukemia last year.

Having only met her once, Wohlers was moved by the effect Composto had on her fellow co-workers and the memories they had of her. “Donna Marie would light up a room yet all her attention was on you. She made people feel special,” recalled Abby Sheeline. “I am grateful for the time we spent together at the hospital - talking for hours - making plans for when she got better. I felt honored to be there when she needed me. She had a wonderful way of bringing people together, sharing friendships and gathering people into her circle. Her strength in life, right up to the end, was remarkable. I miss my beautiful friend.”

Wohlers has been involved with social causes dating back to 1990. Having gotten his first taste of charity work as a 16-year-old who started hanging around Oyster Bay’s Planting Fields Arboretum, he rose up through the ranks over the span of several years, helping out on care of the museum’s collection and with collections at Coe Hall before eventually becoming the organization’s IT man. Currently, the Hicksville resident serves on the board of Save the Children Long Island Council, donates Web support for “Forgotten Friends of Long Island” dog/cat rescue, and he also works with Locust Valley’s Grenville Boys & Girls Club. But in joining up with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training, Wohler achieved a number of firsts.

“I’ve run galas and that kind of thing for Planting Fields, but this is the first charitable event that I’ve participated in that’s a physical challenge and also something that I’m bringing money in for,” he explained.

In training since November, the Sea Cliff native is part of a 22-member team. Starting out with a three-mile stroll, more recently he and the rest of his crew have been clocking in a good 12 to 13 miles in recent excursions up to Sterling Forest State Park in upstate Warwick. It’s preferable to the one hour Wohlers spends on the elliptical machine in the gym, a task he loathes. But it’s all work he has to put in, given the rough outing that he’s preparing himself on one of the most difficult trails in the park. One that contains extreme gradients and is not recommended for hikers with height, balance or knee issues.

“The Grand Canyon hike is going to take place in one day. They gave us 14 trails to pick from starting with the easiest up to the most difficult, which is something you’d do in an Iron Man competition. So I took the second-most difficult, Grandview to Horseshoe Mesa, which is about 13 miles,” he explained. “They say that we’re going to be out there for about 10 or 12 miles, with little or no shade at all. It’s going to be a killer. Plus we have to bring at least five to eight liters of water along with snacks in your backpack. All I know is that when we go hiking upstate, your back ends up getting drenched, so I can’t even imagine what [the Grand Canyon hike] is going to be like.”

But for all the physical duress he’s endured in training and will go through once he hits the trail, on some accounts raising money has been the more difficult part of this endeavor.

“I have a hard enough time as a business owner asking people to pay their bills. So to ask people to donate, that’s hard. Especially with the way the economy is, nobody wants to give. Plus, I envisioned this ending up like when you’re in high school, trying to sell that box of chocolate and you end up getting stuck with it and your parents wind up buying all your candy,” he admitted. “But I actually found that it was a lot easier [to do than I thought] I’ve been doing everything through social networking. When we signed up, the [charity officials] said we should do a lot of letter writing. I immediately figured that wasn’t going to work because I know my clients. So I did everything through constant contact via direct email. Everything has been coming in through that and Facebook. Every time I would post it on Facebook, I would get three or four donations.”

Initially wanting to raise $3,800, Wohlers quickly upped the amount to $5,000 and then $6,500. As of this writing, he was $100 away from hitting the $8,000 threshold with people wishing to donate being allowed to contribute money up to six weeks after the hike occurs. And while his skills as an entrepreneurial computer consultant, Web designer and photographer has aided the aspiring fundraiser’s ability to drum up funds, he’s refused to remove all human touches from his fundraising efforts.

“I made a point that every couple of weeks, I’ll go through the list and start sending out handwritten thank you cards to anyone who’s sent money,” he said. “I won’t even print up labels for the envelopes. I handwrite the addresses as well because if people took the time to give money, I can take the time to write out cards.”

Quite a feat, considering the fact that one of his jobs is exclusively shooting homes for Daniel Gale listings. Having photographed around 600 houses last year, this year, he’s already taken pictures of around 325 houses, and it’s only May. But given the artistic sensibilities of his job, many of his friends figure he’ll take advantage of the time he’ll be spending navigating throughout the natural splendor of the Grand Canyon.

“Since I’m also a professional photographer, I’ve got people asking if I’m going to be taking pictures,” Wohlers explains with a smile. “At which point I tell them that I’m not going to carry ten pounds of equipment with me. I’ll do a little point-and-shoot and that’s about it.”

Donations for Mark Wohlers’ Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training can be made at http://pages.teamintraining. org/li/CanyonS12/kwohlers