Venice resident Dennis Hathaway wants to get another crack at reaching the summit of Mt. Shasta, but this time he’ll be climbing for a personal challenge as well as to support at-risk youths.

The retired building contractor was on his way to the top of the 14,162-foot mountain in the Cascade Range last summer but was forced to turn back when someone in the climbing group developed altitude sickness. Then he found out about an opportunity that would give him a second chance to summit Mt. Shasta as part of a new mission.

Hathaway learned that Big City Mountaineers, a nonprofit organization that takes at-risk youths on wilderness trips led by qualified adult volunteers, organizes guided climbs through its Summit for Someone program to raise money for the wilderness trips.

When Hathaway, an avid hiker, discovered that he could climb Mt. Shasta while raising money for a youth program, he knew it was time put his hiking boots back on.

“I really believe in trying to do something positive for the community,” said Hathaway, who has lived in Venice for over 30 years and has seven grandchildren. “To do it in conjunction with something I love to do anyway makes it all the better.”

In participating in Big City Mountaineers’ Summit for Someone, Hathaway has committed to raising $2,900 for the program on a three-day hike on Mt. Shasta in mid-June. Through the funds raised by each sponsor, as many as five at-risk youths from across the country will be able to experience a Big City Mountaineers wilderness trip with adult volunteers.

Hathaway’s climb this summer will not be the first time he has worked to improve the lives of young people. While working in construction, he hired a group of at-risk youths in the Venice community to build the Neighborhood Youth Association’s after-school learning center in the Oakwood neighborhood. He later helped train and prepare youths for construction-related jobs through the Venice Community Housing Corporation’s Youthbuild Program.

For Hathaway, seeing community youths begin to change their lives after they appeared to be headed in the wrong direction has been “extremely satisfying.”

Hathaway is no stranger to community involvement, as he serves on the Venice Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee and chairs the council’s vehicular living task force. He also serves on the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight and has worked for the Venice Community Housing Corporation for six years.

As someone who has climbed a number of mountains in California, Hathaway knows what reaching a peak can bring to young people who come from challenging backgrounds.

“It’s a feeling not only of satisfaction but achieving something,” Hathaway said. “It’s both a physical and mental challenge, which is really good for these kids to be faced with.”

Experiences like the Big City Mountaineers wilderness trips can get youths who have never been out of Venice away from their typical environment and give them a new perspective on life, Hathaway noted.

“We’re trying to create a unique experience that takes teens out of their comfort zone,” Big City Mountaineers executive director Mark Godley said.

The program is not intended to turn the participants into outdoor enthusiasts but to provide them with a new set of skills to apply in their everyday lives, Godley said. The Summit for Someone program generates approximately 60 percent of the funds for Big City Mountaineers, he said.

Hathaway is seeking donations from the community to assist in his effort and recently discussed the program at a Venice Neighborhood Council meeting.

Currently preparing for his expedition this summer, Hathaway knows what to expect when his group heads up Mt. Shasta, which he calls a “serious mountain.”

At 65, Hathaway says staying in shape can be challenging, but added that he is not the type to sit around in a “rocking chair.”

He has been training for the trek by working out regularly, taking long hikes on the weekends and jogging.

“If you’re not in shape, forget it,” Hathaway said of the climb, adding that Mt. Shasta would be the highest summit he has ever reached.

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