Make-A-Wish Trailblaze 2022

Make-A-Wish Trailblaze 2022

September 20, 2022 Blog 2

Back in May of 2022 I signed up for the Trailblaze Challenge through the Maine Chapter of Make-A-Wish. I had volunteered with the chapter off-and-on for two years through the pandemic. My wish granting partner, Sam, was a full time staff member and Event Coordinator. Sam is incredibly good at what she does – and she is incredibly good at encouragement.

At the time, I was at a low. I was coming out of the first winter in my new home and still financially struggling from the down payment and lack of work in the cold months. I was trying (and failing) to keep my daily drug use under wraps from the world – and with that I was keeping myself isolated and small. There were so many projects and dreams I put on hold waiting for the world to open up. And quite frankly, I needed to get off my ass and get my shit together.

Through this dark period, there was Make-A-Wish. Volunteering as a Wish Granter actually felt like magic. It directed my energy, got me out of the house, and it made me feel joy again. The message of the organization – and what I got out of my time volunteering – is that in times of tragedy, when things are hardest, positive memories and experiences can change the game. Fun and Joy ARE Magic.

So when Sam told me that, despite my doubts and hesitations, I could definitely fundraise $2500 and hike 23.4 miles, I believed her. She’s very good at encouragement 🙂

Over the next three and a half months I trained my body beyond what I thought it could handle. I surprised myself. I figured if the children I heard about and met could wake up every day and face critical illness, bodily pain, and mental suffering with not just normalcy but positivity – I could elect to push myself.

I’m not much of a loner. While I love my solo re-charge time at home, when it comes to doing things out in public, rarely do I choose activities by myself. Even driving myself to the first training hike where I didn’t know anyone got my nerves going. I really had nothing to worry about. The way this organization fosters community is stunning. And let me tell you – nothing crushing time on the trails like getting to know someone. I made friends and met people I never would have otherwise. I felt the spirit of Make-A-Wish.

I was branching out more in the rest of my life too.

Over the summer months I had the chance to work on a couple very intimate documentary projects. The most notable was a project with Recovery Maine called RIME Prevention. The project deserves its own blog post (let me know if you want to hear more!).

The long-short is that I met children in the recovery space and after seeing the work they do I knew I had to live the rest of my life sober and substance free.

I found a recovery group, first online, then in person. I leaned on my support systems – my family, my crew members, my hike companions, and the beautiful queer community in Portland, ME.

All the while I was working my way up to 7 mile hikes, 10 mile hike, 12 miles, then good lord did I just do 14 miles in a day?

I wasn’t smoking anymore. My lungs felt amazing. I was road walking at least 2-3 miles daily when I wasn’t hitting the trails. And my booming arms (I run audio for film in my work life) were even getting stronger.

Summer, as it is known to do, flew by. Before I knew it, September hit and I was two weeks away from Trailblaze. I was also 1 month sober.

At this point I was sweating the fundraising more than the hike itself. For me, $2500 is a huge chunk of change. I work with artists. We are notoriously broke! I don’t have corporate connections or sponsors. But I do have a lot of love and gratitude. And I was amazed to see the generosity of my community.

I’ll be honest, this post goes out to my donors!

I could not do what I do without you. The money was encouragement to get me on the trails and to complete a daunting task. Moreover, I could not grant wishes without these contributions. 10 days before the hike I reached and surpassed my goal of $2500. I also was assigned my next Wish Kid! A beautiful, active, immigrant to Portland who survived a kidney transplant and will likely need dialysis the rest of her life. The money we raise will directly go to her wish experience. I cannot wait to see what her creative brain comes up with!

My donations page will be open until October 17th 2022. If you have not donated yet and are inspired to contribute – Click Here!

The weekend of Trailblaze was incredible. Like I said, Sam and the full time staff at Make-A-Wish Maine are incredibly good at what they do! It’s one thing to show up and hike, and another thing completely to run an event with over 100 people, food, medical supplies, and let’s be honest, many big emotions!

To capture the spirit of the hike, I recorded some video on my phone and edited something short. It’s not super polished – I did it in two days (hire me!) – and it’s a little sentimental and cheesy. But I think it does justice to the event and all the feelings that come up on the trail. Plus I had to capture some of the beauty available to us Downeast!

That said, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the original stewards of this land. The Wabanaki are the Dawn People, those who herald the first light. Waking up at 4am to hit the trails was poignant. I hope the natives of my homeland would be honored by this event. I hope we did right by our ancestors and future generations and I hope we left that mountain better than we found it. I believe there is a future where the Wabanaki gain sovereignty over this land again and will still allow us to host events such as this for years to come. Children are children of us all. So it is our right and responsibility to do what we can to care for all life on this planet and to set a good example for those to come.

It is with MUCH LOVE in my heart that I share this film and this experience with you. I feel only gratitude as I rest and recover, stay sober, and celebrate while I prepare for my next chapter. My calendar is already marked for Trailblaze 2023! I hope to see you there one way or another <3

If you haven’t yet — Subscribe to my newsletter!
Get updated seasonally about my projects or when I write new blog posts like this one!


2 Responses

  1. Lisa Sgamboti says:

    Marissa!!!!! I’ve watched you grow up from the time you were 5 years old. From the time you were little, you made me laugh, taught me how to organize a rock band (your 8-year-old (?) birthday party), and entertained our family! Now, you brought me to tears to see what a giving person you are and your path is a true inspiration to me. I loved you when you were little, loved you as you grew, and feel honored to know you as a spiritual, insightful adult who is changing lives. Thank you for sharing your light with the world! xoxoxo

    • admin says:

      Lisa! Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful words. I’m welling up! I am so grateful to have you in my extended family. You were my first camera operator 😀 I love all our memories together and I am so happy I get to share more and make more with you as I grow <3 You are beautiful inside and out! Keep living your best life and setting an example for what aging with grace looks like. Fun and fabulous! Much love!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *