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Ciesco climbs for a cause

Rocklin resident to scale Mt. Whitney for Parkinson's
By: Teresa O'Hanlon, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Sometimes a good hike can do wonders. When Rocco Ciesco of Rocklin decided to get in better shape by trekking the trails of Whitney Oaks, he was reminded of his college days hiking in New Hampshire and his childhood in scenic Connecticut. Hiking came naturally for the empty nester with three grown children whose wife, Jody, works as a kindergarten teacher for Rocklin Unified. “As I was walking the hills I was thinking what do I want to do next?” said Ciesco. “And I was talking with my friend, Chuck. I knew that he was struggling with Parkinson’s disease. For him a walk down the street is a struggle. It would be really neat to have a cause or a reason to keep you going on these long days.” Ciseco had recently spent time with his childhood friend, Chuck Coury, on a getaway to Lake Tahoe. It was evident that Parkinson’s disease, a nervous system disorder that causes tremors and impairs coordination, was slowly stealing Coury’s quality of life. “He is the type of guy who has a way with words and he could walk in and light up a room,” recalled Ciesco. “Now speaking can be a struggle.” Ciesco and Coury are more like family. They were born two days apart in a Connecticut Hospital; a brotherhood built after their mothers shared a recovery room and became best friends. “He was my first roommate,” chuckled Ciesco. Years later, Ciesco took a hike and came home with an incredible idea. Why not climb a mountain for Chuck and raise funds to help in the fight against Parkinson’s disease? Ciesco is no stranger to higher altitudes. He’s braved snow, wind and ice while climbing Mount Washington in New Hampshire. It only made sense now to seek the highest peak in the continental United States: California’s legendary Mount Whitney. So with the strength and soul of a true mountaineer, Ciesco united a team of friends from all over the nation to join him on June 16 to climb the 14,495-foot peak. The team will take the Mount Whitney Trail that winds up the mountain in a series of 99 switchbacks. Ciesco also founded Vista Adventures to combine his love of outdoor sports and fighting for a cause into an annual fundraising effort. “When you go to my website the link brings your directly to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which means I don’t have to handle any funds,” said Ciesco. “Which is good because people know 100 percent of the money goes to the cause.” According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation website, five million people worldwide suffer from Parkinson’s disease. The foundation, which holds an exceptional rating through Charity Navigator, is dedicated to finding a cure. Emmy Award winning actor Michael J. Fox launched the Foundation in 2000 after he was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991. Ciesco has raised about $2,300 dollars for the Foundation and has a goal of $6,000. “We’re going to meet with a guide specific to Mount Whitney as to what we can expect with the conditions,” he said. “Typically it’s a 14-hour hike. We’re going to do it in one day on June 16.” Jody Ciesco has helped her husband train on night hikes after work. “I am pleased and proud and excited for him,” she shared. “Rocco has taken some time off work to do some training and traveling to Colorado to see our daughter and do some high altitude training. All of our friends are so supportive.” To learn more about Ciesco’s climbers, read their hiking blog and donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation (vista-adventures.org). “Every time I talk with Chuck I hear about his good days and bad days,” said Ciesco. “News of this climb definitely brightened his days.”