HHS grad giving back with ‘Valley Tough’

A Herkimer CSD graduate is scaling mountains, and it’s all for a good cause.

Brennen Thompson (Class of 2015) has started a fundraising effort to benefit Herkimer Central School athletics, and the Catholic Charities of Herkimer County.

The Valley Tough challenge will send Thompson and a friend to the 12 highest peaks in California over the next several months. The culminating climb will send them to Mt. Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.

“The idea started a few months ago,” explained Thompson, who moved to California not long after graduating from St. John Fisher College. “I had the opportunity to do this Mt. Kilimanjaro hike, and my roommate suggested we find a way to give back in some way. And I just thought, ‘What better place to give back to than the town that’s really helped me become the person that I am?’”

Thompson said he chose the Herkimer sports program because sports was such a huge part of his life while he was growing up. “I was always involved in sports all throughout high school, and I always thought the local community support was fantastic. It’s ultimately what helped me go to college, and learn a lot of the skills that have made me successful.”

And with the COVID-19 pandemic, Thompson said he also wanted to make sure he was helping people in the community who might be struggling. “I knew COVID was really taking a toll on people, both healthwise and economically,” he explained.

The “Valley Tough” effort got under way in June, with climbs scheduled each month leading up to the journey to Africa in 2021. So far, the effort has raised about $2,300, with more donations coming in — nearly halfway to their goal of $6,000.


“The support has been awesome,” Thompson said. “You don’t have to give $20, $50, or $100 — some people are giving $5, $10, or maybe they’re just sharing it or passing it along to a friend, and it all helps.”

Probably the most surprising thing about Valley Tough is that, until his first climb in June, Thompson had “never climbed a day in his life,” as he put it.

“This is a completely different journey for me,” he explained. “We’re learning as we go. But as an athlete, you’re always looking for a way to be a little competitive with yourself, so this has actually been a great experience.”


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