An ultimate journey to the Ultimate Hike
December 09, 2020
By Jamie Handy, PGATOUR.COM
- December 09, 2020
- Ultimate Hike's initiative is to raise awareness for cancer’s youngest fighters. (PGA TOUR)
Joseph Campione, 14, is a survivor of a rare muscle and bone cancer – Rhabdomyosarcoma.
Although the 2018 QBE Shootout Honored Fighter was discharged in 2007 with the help of chemotherapy and proton radiation – removing the cancer within his body – the long-term effects followed him as he grew up. While the cancer had been killed off, the treatments had damaged his legs and hips.
“I couldn’t walk in kindergarten because the radiation had affected my hips and I had to get pins placed,” said Campione.
The pins had helped, but just a few years later, Campione had to get additional ones placed in fifth grade to be able to walk better. The journey to walk “normally” again had in no doubt been a long one, but each day had seen progress towards another challenge Campione was getting ready to face.
In sixth grade, Campione’s father came across a non-profit, CureSearch, and their “Ultimate Hike” initiative to raise awareness for “cancer’s youngest fighters.” In addition to bringing awareness, the money raised through the initiative helps to fund research for doctors to find a cure for cancers, some that were thought to be unbeatable.
Each of the participants for the annual Ultimate Hike are required to raise $2,500 to participate and, on the day of, each hiker hikes over 20 miles. The hike normally takes about 9-10 hours to complete, with assistance along the way.
“Sixth grade was the first year I had completed the Ultimate Hike at Black Waterfalls in West Virginia,” said Campione.
“Now, I would say that a year is not complete without the hike.”
The hike was nonetheless a difficult one. Not only had Campione had the trouble of walking, but hiking over 20 miles would come with its own challenges. Motivation would both come in the hashtag used, #WorthIt -- meaning “pain in every step, but proclaiming it is worth it during the hike” -- and the friends who joined in on the hike to help encourage Campione.
“During [my first] training with CureSearch, I was the newcomer. There were so many people who had been doing it for over 10 years and it was cool that they already knew my name when I came into the room,” said Campione.
“Last year, I brought my friends Lauren and Erick with me which made it so special.”
CureSearch is a charity that the PGA TOUR tournament, the QBE Shootout, supports. Each year, someone is chosen from CureSearch to be the QBE Shootout Honored Fighter and, in 2018, Campione was chosen for the honor.
“It was an honor to be at the event and to have met all of the amazing golfers. I even met the CureSearch representative who was there,” said Campione.
On one of the nights at the QBE Shootout, guest speakers, TOUR players and the Honored Fighter all come together for a dinner. At the 2018 event, Greg Norman, host of the QBE Shootout, had been an attendee and a guest speaker for the evening.
“Greg spoke on George H.W. Bush and immediately I thought about how he truly cares about the people he knows,” said Campione.
“One of the cooler moments was when he came up to me and talked to me [just] human to human. I thought about how incredible he was and how he had made such an impact on me.”
Campione then gave his own speech on stage as Honored Fighter, thanking CureSearch and the QBE Shootout for making an impact on his life.
“I usually don’t like when people feel sad for me and for what I’ve been through, so I left the speech on a lighter note,” said Campione. “Then everyone stood up and it was a just a special moment for me.”
The evening continued on where he joined in on the concert by country music star and TOUR ambassador Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum and his visit finished off with a special spot on the course the next day.
“I was on the first tee during the Pro-Am with my grandparents where we got to meet all of the golfers. My grandfather is a big golf fan and he got to tell me [about] each player and what they do, which made them more human to me,” said Campione.
“It was cool to have my grandparents with me because they were always there for me when I was fighting cancer.”
Though Campione’s “ultimate journey” will still continue on, he still looks forward to advocating for CureSearch and completing the Ultimate Hike each year.
“When you do it, you become part of the family, [knowing] so many people in the room had been touched by cancer,” said Campione.
“Through CureSearch and hearing how many kids have been touched by them, it’s really inspiring. The Ultimate Hike is now the center of my life.”