Shue Vang, a 29-year-old school teacher from Fresno California who also happens to be living with Muscular Dystrophy, recently received quite the invitation. When members of the non-profit group F5 Challenge learned that he has Muscular Dystrophy and has not been able to hike in over 20 years, they reached out to see if he might be up for joining them at their annual event this past September in Zion National Park. The group planned to hike the popular 2.5-mile Angels Landing Trail to the peak of the fin-like rock formation that juts approximately 1,500-ft straight up out of the floor of Zion Canyon. Vang was to be their guest of honor. According to Board Chair Calvin Kim on the F5 Challenge Website:
“When we found out one of our F5 member’s (Tara Vang) younger brother had muscular dystrophy (causing paralysis below the waist), we wanted to do something special for him!”
Despite the fact that he is paralyzed from the waist down and is slowly losing the use of his arms as well, to his credit, Shue’s immediate response was simply: “I am down for anything.”
The F5 Challenge Website states that “the goal of F5 is to enrich lives through genuine ‘face to face’ fellowship and exciting adventure challenges in a faith-enriching environment. We were not created to just be stagnant and sit around but we were made to move! We encourage everybody to go outside and discover new things in life. Through our events, you will find courage and motivation to overcome not just fitness challenges but also daily life challenges.” The 5 “F’s” in F5 Challenge are Faith, Fellowship, Fitness, Fortitude, and Fun.
As you can imagine, a group this motivated to make an impact on the world around them had no shortage of members ready to pitch in to help make certain that Vang would make it to the top of Angels Landing. They gathered in the park on the morning of September 29, 2019, after having completed a test ascent just the day prior at nearby Checkerboard Mesa to accomplish just that. The group planned for Vang to ride in his own wheelchair as far as possible on paved trails before switching to other methods. They would use a crossbar secured under the chair with a rope attached to it to pull him up the easier paved sections, and then transfer him to a backpack specially designed to carry people while hiking. Teamwork and perseverance paid off, and a short time later, the group reached the top of Angels landing with Vang, where they all shared an emotional moment celebrating their collective accomplishment. As he stated on televised local news coverage of the event, for Shue Vang:
“The best feeling I got wasn’t just getting to the top, but having all those people willing to help me get there.”