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Samuelson Sends People Up a Wall for Good Cause

Mike Samuelson might be forgiven for being wary of the old "friend of a friend" request. But ultimately, he's actually thankful one of those got him into what he's doing now.

"A mutual friend was being recruited to run the Country Music Marathon for Team in Training in 2008," he recalls. Team in Training is the group of purple-clad runners who run to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. "My friend didn't run, but I wound up running the half marathon. Then I immediately signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon that fall." Although Samuelson hadn't run since college, when even then the longest distance was five miles, the bug had bitten him. "I had to see what running 26 miles felt like," he says. Since then he's run several more half marathons and marathons, most recently the Vancouver Marathon in British Columbia last month.

But Samuleson wanted to raise more money than he could just by running as an individual, and came up with an event that would appeal to athletes whose challenges are more vertical than horizontal.

"Pajama Jam" has been held in March for the last three years at the Cliffs of Valhalla, one of the premier indoor rock climbing facilities in the area. Participants pay $25 (with $5 knocked off if they show up clad in PJs) for an evening of climbing, food, and music. The event runs from 8 p.m. until early the next morning, although the climbing gets cut off at 10. "We start serving beer then, and it's not a good idea to drink and be 40 feet up a wall," says Samuelson.

The inaugural edition drew some 200 people and raised $6,000 for Leukemia and Lymphoma. The following year, Mother Nature threw Samuleson a monkey wrench.

"We had one of the worst snowstorms of the winter," he says. "All the roads to the facility were blocked and the power was knocked out. But the people that did make it had a great time."

Samuelson has a half marathon in the Hamptons and a marathon in San Francisco on his fall running/fund raising schedule, and is already planning for the fourth edition of the climbing "Pajama Jam" – this time, without snow, he hopes.

Do you participate in fundraising activities? What are they?

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