ROCKPORT — Two young men from Rockport are hiking the Colorado Trail this summer to raise money and awareness for cancer research and treatment at the Dana-Farber cancer center in Boston.

Karl Hokkanen, 15, is a sophomore at Camden Hills Regional High School and his brother Jay, 19, is a sophomore at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Hiking: Joel Hokkanen (Dad) and Karl Hokkanen. Courtesy of Kelly Hokkanen

They shared their story with The Camden Herald:

“Over the winter our family started planning a hiking trip to Colorado this summer. But then in March our mother Kelly, age 50, received a surprise diagnosis. She had a non-painful swelling in her left leg which had been slowly getting bigger and was finally diagnosed as a rare type of cancer growing within her quadriceps muscle. At first it was unclear what the possible implications might be, it is always scary hearing the “C” word. After her first meeting with a surgeon we learned that her prognosis for survival was good, but that the tumor was intricately entangled with her quadriceps muscle and they would likely have to remove the entire muscle to fully remove the tumor. This would mean a lifetime of reduced function of her left leg, and no hiking in Colorado.

Jay Hokkanen Courtesy of Kelly Hokkanen

“That’s when Kelly received a referral to Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston, where she met with a soft-tissue sarcoma specialist. In April a team of amazing Dana-Farber cancer surgeons performed a feat of surgical wizardry and removed the tumor from our mom’s leg while disentangling it from the muscle and leaving enough of her quadriceps muscle intact for her to eventually regain full function of her leg. She is now recovering well and walking short distances and regaining strength. Without Dana-Farber our mom may not be walking today.

“Kelly is not ready to hike in the Rocky Mountains yet, so we decided to bring her along with us on the Colorado Trail in spirit by raising money for Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund charity. We’re dedicating our hike to our mom and all the amazing doctors and staff at Dana-Farber who helped our family this spring. We hope to thank them by raising $10,000 to support cancer research and treatment for the next family who needs it. We have already raised over $4000 for the Jimmy Fund but need more help to reach our goal.”

“Contributions can be made to Dana-Farber through their fundraising page:

You can also follow their story there. So far they have raised $4,380.

“The Colorado Trail is a 485-mile footpath that runs through the heart of the Rocky Mountains, from Denver to Durango. Our family will be flying out to Denver together in mid-July. We will then be starting the trail while Kelly waits to meet us in Breckenridge, about 100 miles into the trail. …The full 485-mile hike takes most backpackers an average of about 5 weeks of hiking 12-15 miles per day. We will be carrying everything we need on our backs and sleeping in tents, there are no shelters or lean-tos on the trail. We expect to be able to resupply every 4-6 days when the trail takes us near roads and little towns, but most of the trail passes through remote mountain wilderness.”

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