Celebrating Women’s History Month – Cate Miller’s Passion for Giving Back
During Women’s History Month we celebrate the many women at DHG and beyond who are inspiring role models. Cate Miller, Senior Manager at DHG, is the perfect example of someone who fits that description. Cate is incredibly passionate about giving back to her local community, so much so, that she raised a total of $18,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s 2017 Spring Trailblaze Challenge in the Western Carolinas – the most money raised by anyone in North and South Carolina! Cate joins us to share her passion and why giving back is so important to her.
How did you first get involved with Make-A-Wish and the Spring Trailblaze Challenge?
I was introduced to the organization when I was based in DHG’s Asheville office. Some of the Asheville professionals were talking about the hike and encouraged me to participate. The more I learned about the organization and the work they’re doing, the more I was intrigued.
I was blown away! I had done the hike in 2015, but I was turning 50 last year and knew I wanted to do something bigger than me to celebrate. In setting my fundraising goal I wanted the number to have the number 5 in it. You’re required to raise around $2,400, but I wanted to do something bigger than that to commemorate my milestone birthday. I set the bar at $15,000, knowing that hitting that number would be beyond my wildest dreams, but I thought, why not shoot for the stars. For the 3-4 months I was training, I would hike on Saturdays and fundraise on Sundays. I was so busy I didn’t pay any attention to the numbers until I got the call saying I had raised the most money they had ever received from one person for the hike. It was surreal.
I was just so motivated each week by meeting the Make-A-Wish kids and their parents. I would hike with some of the dads while training who would tell me their stories. The stories stuck with me and reenergized me as I was making calls and fundraising on Sundays. Some of the kids you meet, they’re four or five years old, and they don’t get a choice. $6,500 grants one wish for one child, and I wanted to give as many kids their wish as possible. They were my motivation.
What did the money you raised go towards?
The money went towards granting wishes for the Central and Western NC chapter. The chapter had 92 hikers for that particular hike and we collectively raised $500,000. That money granted 84 wishes for kids in Central NC. The money we raised stayed in the local community, which was a great touching point for me, it gave me a chance to give back to my new community.
The hike is 28.3 miles, which you complete in one day. You start in Lavonia, GA and end up at the North/South Carolina boarder hiking what’s called the foothills trail. The hike is broken down into 3 sections, with your first checkpoint at 5 miles, then 12 miles, and finally at 21 miles. They take you in buses to the starting line, starting at 3:30am in the morning. I started hiking around 5am and was through the 3rd checkpoint by 5pm. There are so many volunteers on hand to give out food and water and help with aches and pains along the way. There are cowbells and all sorts of noise makers to help keep the motivation high. I ended up finishing around 6pm. The last two miles are challenging after hiking all day. There are a lot of low hanging trees along the last two miles where they hang stars in the in the branches with the faces of the Make-A-Wish kids and their inspiring stories on the back. The hikers take one of these star necklaces to help fight the fatigue along the last 2 miles. As you cross the finish line, it’s pure adrenaline when you see people from the Make-A-Wish community there cheering you on.
Do you plan to participate again this year?
I decided to switch things up and give back as a volunteer this year by helping support the training hikes and alumni efforts. Through the alumni community, we meet to do alternate types of fundraising. We help raise money to provide families with gift cards for meals and activities during their Wish trips and we also raise money to give back to the state parks where we hike.
How can others across our footprint get involved with Make-A-Wish and the Spring Trailblaze Challenge?
For Make-A-Wish, if hiking isn’t your thing, there are so many different events for you to participate in. If you’re in North Carolina, you can visit NC.Wish.org and you will see a complete calendar of events. They’re always looking for volunteers! If you’d like to be a wish grantor, you can sign up to go through the training program and visit the kid’s homes to tell them their wish has been granted. If you like to hike, you can look for the next Trailblaze Challenge coming up in your area.
One of the things that I’m extremely grateful for is being part of an organization like DHG that encourages me to get involved outside of work. Not just volunteering, but engaging with something that’s extremely meaningful and purposeful. It’s one of the things that makes DHG a pretty awesome place to work. Had the firm not encouraged me to do this, I would have missed out on an opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.
To know the journey that these kids and their families are on, and to help make a difference in their lives, it’s given me so much to be grateful for. It’s really taught me a lot about people and human nature. I encourage everyone to get out there, get involved and step outside your comfort zone. It’s been extremely rewarding for me.
Cate is a Senior Manager based in the Charlotte SouthPark office. She has been with DHG 10 years and is the leader for DHG University. When she’s not at work, she likes spending time outdoors with family and friends and recently went on a snow shoeing trip to Mt. Rainier.