'Battle of the Berg' raises money for terminally ill mom
Every year, Newberg CrossFit hosts its "Battle of the Berg" event, drawing amateur and experienced athletes from around the area to compete in a day of fun and fitness. This year's event holds a special meaning for owner Doug Hildreth, however, and aims to make a significant financial contribution for a Newberg family in need.
Hildreth's childhood friend Stephanie Keeler – a former CrossFit athlete herself – has been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and doctors give her less than a year to live. She has four children and her extended family will be saddled with the growing and expensive medical bills.
"For someone that was young and thriving and active, it's brutal," Hildreth said. "It's brutal to watch and she's a big part of her children's lives, so now her dad, mom and brother are helping take care of her and her kids."
Hildreth and Keeler are both 34 and graduated from Newberg High School in 2003. Before that, they knew each other since they were 12 and played sports together in a local neighborhood.
In promoting the upcoming event and encouraging people to donate, Newberg CrossFit posted a video to its Facebook page explaining Keeler's situation and the strong friendship she and Hildreth have.
Austen Hammon, a Newberg resident and recent college graduate interested in a career in digital media, made the video in which Hildreth was brought to tears when discussing his friend's prognosis.
Keeler is dealing with a lot of pressure on her nervous system and has been confined to a wheelchair. According to Hildreth, she is at the point where the hope is to keep her comfortable and make sure there are more good days than bad.
While Keeler can't attend the event in person, Hildreth said everyone at Newberg CrossFit is hoping she lives long enough to see the event through and can personally receive the money that will go to her family.
"We always try to pick a family in need and it was pretty obvious this year who it needed to be," Hildreth said. "It's really bittersweet. She was not doing well a few weeks ago, so we're hoping that she'll be alive for the event."
With the exception of paying for equipment and supplies for the Battle of the Berg, all the money from registration fees will go to Keeler's family. Hildreth also set up a separate fundraiser page on Facebook to raise money.
The original goal, Hildreth said, was to write a check for $5,000 that includes money raised from the event and from the fundraiser page. As of Sunday, the fundraiser had raised more than $5,400 on its own. Hildreth expects a significant amount of money from both the event and the fundraiser will make its way to the Keeler family when all is said and done.
A silent auction will be held at the event as well, and food and entertainment will be part of this year's Battle of the Berg. The event is all day June 8 at 2401 E. Hancock St. in Newberg.
Registration is $120 per team and more information can be found at www.newbergcrossfit.com/battle-of-the-berg/. The page includes a link to the donation page as well, where folks can donate money to the Keeler family regardless of whether they participate in the actual event.
"It's a lot of fun," Hildreth said of the Battle of the Berg. "That's what it's supposed to be about, too, is having fun and getting out to do something different to raise money for someone in need. We want to honor them in that way.
"Life is so precious and fragile and we all know it, but we don't know it until it hits home. I have kids that I'm raising, and I can't imagine my children being left without me on this Earth."