20-01-01 ARTS Emilia's Everest W.jpg

Mark Pattison approaches the summit of Denali in 2018, the fifth of his Seven Summits.

Mount Everest is, literally and figuratively, a tremendous obstacle of nearly insurmountable proportions. Reaching the summit of Everest is among the most impressive and commendable physical accomplishments on this planet.

There is only one Everest, its scale unmatched, at least in literal terms. Ask mountaineer and former NFL player Mark Pattison and he will posit that everyone has his or her own personal Everest. Everyone has a seemingly unbeatable problem that could kill them, but that they can overcome with hard work and perseverance.

That is precisely what he hopes to address in both personal and general terms in Emilia’s Everest: Overcoming Epilepsy, an upcoming free community event in Ketchum.

Beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 3, Pattison, a Wood River Valley resident, will moderate a panel discussion on overcoming hardship and achieving goals from five other area residents who have done just that: Jim Mora, Rebecca Rusch, Peter Whittaker, Tom Flick and Peter Cetera.

Pattison’s primary objective is to raise funds and awareness for the National Epilepsy Foundation and its work to support Americans with epilepsy and research to find a solution.

Though a great cause for anyone to take on, the fight against epilepsy bears personal relevance for Pattison, whose 21-year-old daughter has suffered from the central nervous system disorder for the past 13 years.

“She was having a really tough time. She was having daily seizures and all I could think about was, ‘What can I do to help beat this?’ She can’t drive, can’t ride a bike, couldn’t play on the monkey bars, it’s hard for her attention span—she blanks out a few times a day and loses key information,” Pattison said.

“I started researching this and learned that one in every 26 people in the United States has this. It’s a much bigger problem than I originally thought. It goes beyond my daughter, but she means everything to me. So, how can I help?”

The answer to that question emerged more or less organically for Pattison. Not long ago, he decided to get serious about mountaineering as an athletic follow-up to his time in the National Football League.

For a mountain climber, there a few better tests of mettle than the Seven Summits—the highest points on each of the seven continents. This unparalleled challenge includes Everest and a trip to Antarctica. Only about 350 people—the aforementioned Peter Whittaker included—have ever completed the challenge. Should Pattison succeed, he will become the first NFL player to pull it off.

Chronicling his training and ascents in a podcast, Pattison amassed quite the following and, in doing so, found an audience. Spreading a message about epilepsy was the next logical step.

“How can I take this audience I’ve gained and shine some attention to the National Epilepsy Foundation and in particular my daughter? Part of the goal I’ve set is to raise $29,029 [the summit of Everest is 29,029 feet above sea level]. Whatever I can do to help her heal,” he said.

In short, Pattison is using his own journey to overcome Everest to help his daughter fight her own personal Everest—epilepsy—hence the title of the program.

The former football player was stunned by the outpouring of support from both his online community and the local community here in the Wood River Valley, especially from the five local residents joining him for the panel discussion.

“All of the people I’ve named are surely notable and they’re all residents—they all have a stake in the community. When I asked them if they’d be involved, they didn’t ask any questions about themselves—not ‘what do I get out of it’ or anything—just ‘how can I help?’”

Cetera rose to fame as the lead singer of the rock band Chicago. Mora is an ESPN analyst and formerly coached at UCLA and in the NFL. Whittaker is a world-renowned mountaineer. Flick spent seven years as a quarterback in the NFL. Rusch has won seven World Championship titles in numerous athletic disciplines.

All five and Pattison himself have achieved lofty heights in their chosen fields (literally in Pattison’s and Whittaker’s cases), but all have had to face adversity to do it. The message they peddle is one of perseverance and dedication paying off in the long run.

“The event will be a night of inspiration. It’s ordinary people doing extraordinary things. You put all these pieces together for a night and you see that people can do whatever it is they think is amazing, whether it’s starting a charity or climbing a mountain, building a house—anything,” Pattison said. “Anyone can do it. These people have had the initiative, but they’ve had to go through hard times.”

Emilia’s Everest is completely free to attend and will take place at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood, 100 Saddle Road, Ketchum. Raffle tickets will be sold at the door, giving audience members a chance to win one of many prizes donated by local businesses.

For those looking to support a noble cause in an evening that guarantees to be inspirational, drop in at Emilia’s Everest this Friday, and help raise that $29,029.

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