Submitted photo from Roger Long
For many, standing atop a 14,000 foot mountain would mark the end of a journey. But for Roger Long, it's just a stop along the way.
Roane County is Long's hometown. He moved to Colorado Springs three months ago and already crossed nine of the so called "14's" off his list. Next month he tackles one of the tallest mountains in the world.
"Started with one lap, and since then done several miles, marathon length hike three times," Long said. "(I'm") training for Kilimanjaro next month."
Long is using the climb to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's research. His team hopes to raise $100,000. Every dollar raised in 2012 will be matched by Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin. Long's team could put the foundation over the $300 million mark.
But for Long, the effort is more than just about raising money.
At 36, he was diagnosed with the disease.
"When the Parkinson's came it came quick and hard," he said.
The disease forced him to retire early at age 40. Symptoms including head and neck tremors, muscle rigidity, motion disorder, and fatigue, led to years of inactivity and weight gain.
"You start to realize that your life is defined by things other than your job title or how much money you make and what house you live in," he said. "It's about what are you doing to make a difference in this world?"
Eventually, Long had enough. He drew inspiration from his son, a Marine serving in Afghanistan.
"I wanted to be ready when he came home," Long said.
A single lap eventually led to a 26.2 mile hike completed with his son this March. Exercise and a positive attitude keep the symptoms at bay.
"I'm going to be victorious over this and not let it beat me," Long said.
His fight is inspiring his hometown. Tuesday, Roane County Executive Ron Woody proclaimed August "Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month" in Long's honor.
"We're proud of Roger, we're proud of his family, his support here, his second family," Woody said. "We're glad that Roane County could make a proclamation for Parkinson's Disease."
It's just a step on Long's journey as he works to conquer a challenge tougher than any mountain.
"No matter where you move in the world, everyone has a hometown," he said. "Raising the awareness gets people involved and makes a real difference."
Long is over halfway to his personal fundraising goal of $10,000. To donate and follow his training, visit www.thelongwayup.org.