Good ideas and wishful thinking doesn’t always make an event come to pass, but in the case of the 9/11 Memorial Mt. Grant Challenge a group of dreamers united to see it come true.
As one that served Mineral County in 33 years of fire service, Dave Womack was the fire inspector at the Hawthorne Army Base when he began focusing on the desire of hiking Mt. Grant in a manner which had purpose and community meaning.
“People say it was my brainchild, but honestly I just hated that Mt. Grant had been closed to the public and fenced off to civilians once 9/11 happened. I understood the security and maintaining control of base land, yet no one was enjoying the outdoor beauty up there. I had a conversation with Cliff Cichowlaz about it, because he was heading up the base management at the time. He said he had hiked it, as I had before, telling me to think of something that could get it open again, so I did.” Womack explained.
From there a group of interested people, including Courtney Isom, John and Cheri Lockwood and Bobby Sasser put their heads together and came up with something memorializing 9/11. Other’s joined in and soon realized that a community hike, with the mountain open for a day, would bring a positive swing to the area, while also benefitting the Veterans Park tribute. (From that beginning, an approval was pioneered, which still allows base-controlled-access to civilians, to access Mt. Grant today.)
“Once Cichowlaz was on board, the base’s contractor SOC was with us. Then the government was approving it, as we had permission from Lt. Col. Johnson back then, who signed off on it. Wade Barton and Robbie Mathis joined us and our committee grew with people that were going to make sure it happened by organizing it the right way. It was actually a coincidence that our first year was in 2011 as we were honoring the lives lost on 9/11 and respecting the courage of those that survived the tragedy,” Womack shared.
Rickie Isom included the local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) so the mountain incorporated volunteers at stopping points along the 17 miles. This effort provided water and items necessary to hikers. Relay Teams were designed for the first year, so a half-hike challenge was available to involve more walkers into the steep mountain terrain.
As the 9/11 Challenge evolved, residents were sharing the hiking information which brought in past residents from Hawthorne, out-of-area visitors and even athletes from overseas. Everything was being done with donations from several individuals and groups, such as the VFW. Promotional assistance began growing from local businesses. The Mineral County Sportsman Club, now boasting of 160 in membership, became a central part of reviving the outdoor mindset with an outreach toward kids, as they encouraged the Challenge for all ages. Through a banquet fundraising event, money was raised to offset costs associated to the 9/11 Memorial Challenge, which otherwise wouldn’t have been available. This became a key to the facilitation of the 9/11 walk, spearheading many of the requirements and positions.
Today Mathis is acting president, while Lt. Col. Scott Bishop serves as the vice president in an organized Nevada non-profit, which is moving toward their federal 501-C3 non-profit status with the help of Tammy Adams assisting with legal paperwork. Kathy Trujillo also became a key asset to the organization, with her leadership and grant writing skills.
Kurt Bosman, former civil assistant to the base commander, stepped into an internal portion of coordinating with the government to assure their needs and requirements were met properly and efficiently. All agree that many people have played a part in getting the 9/11 Memorial Mt. Grant Challenge to the successful weekend event it has become.
To participate in the Sept. 9, 2017 hike, see the Facebook post or go to www.active.com.