Summit Quest founder, William James, was born and raised near Summerville, Georgia. In 2005, William received news that would forever alter his life. His father, who had been his best friend, mentor, and personal hero, was diagnosed with squamous cell lung cancer. There were no surgery options, so he and his family were faced with a new life of long drives to Rome, hours of chemotherapy, and multiple rounds of radiation. His father fought for two years alongside a devoted family, and this time gave William a deeper insight into how cancer affected not only those facing it directly, but the whole family as a unit. His mother used her nursing background to provide the best care possible, and William accompanied him to various treatment sessions and sat by his side whenever he was admitted to the hospital, all the while feeling helpless as he watched his father’s health decline. On August 22, 2007, William’s father passed away, surrounded by family. “This was the hardest day of my life. The man who had always had the answers to my questions and the steady hand to help me back up when life knocked me down, was gone. I was lost.”
About a month before his father passed away, he had shared with William that after a lot of consideration, his last wish was for his ashes to be taken to a mountaintop in Alaska. William had climbed it several years before, and his dad had always loved the pictures of the snowcapped mountains and open spaces. William agreed, and several weeks later found himself with his wife, Tara, on a beautiful summit in the Chugach Mountain Range just outside of Anchorage. It was in this peace-filled moment, overlooking a glacier-carved valley below that he felt the renewed strength he would need to continue along his journey without him.
This is the experience that spurred William and Tara on to develop a program that could help other families facing cancer. They considered the many great medical facilities in Rome and different support services already in place for the patient, and saw the need for an organization capable of providing for families. With a dedicated group working together, they formed a board of directors, received nonprofit status, and began to form partnerships throughout the community that allowed them to share their mission. They joined with national support programs to receive various trainings and educational materials that allowed them to structure an organization that could provide a holistic approach to supporting the entire family dealing with a cancer diagnosis. They named the organization Summit Quest as a reminder of the journey that first led them to take action.
Summit Quest has been growing ever since. Our various programs include a monthly youth support group Circle at the Summit, weekly support groups held at the Boys & Girls Clubs in Rome/Floyd County, Outdoor Adventure trips throughout the year, and support efforts for individual families in need. All programs are provided at no cost to the families being served and are made possible through the wonderful support of the community that has rallied together to make the mission of Summit Quest their own. Summit Quest has also started the Voices Over Cancer Initiative, an annual publication highlighting the inspiring stories of those who have faced cancer. These stories are also made available on the organization’s website.
It is the hope of Summit Quest to continue to grow and serve our community and be the hand that guides our participants along their personal journey to the summit of their struggle when they most need it. The more Summit Quest grows, the more families we are equipped to serve and unite in the midst of difficulty, and the more we are able to impact our community for the better. Join us in furthering our mission!