Participation, feet climbed, money raised all increase for annual Climb for Connor fundraiser

In memory of a revered former player, the Norwich men’s lacrosse team and the university and Northfield communities went the extra mile nearly a dozen times Saturday.

More than 200 climbers headed up Shapiro Field House’s Hurley Rock Wall from noon to midnight Saturday in the Climb for Connor, which raised money in memory of Connor Roberts, a Norwich men’s lacrosse player who died in 2015 from a sudden, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy-triggered heart attack. Jeff Roberts ’88, a Norwich alumnus and Connor Roberts’ father, was first up the wall.

In a 12-hour stretch, half the time as last year’s 24-hour version, on campus Climb for Connor climbers collectively went 55 percent farther up Shapiro Field House’s Hurley Rock Wall 62,112 feet, or 11.8 miles, in 2020, than in 2019, 39,969 feet, or 7.6 miles.

A stack of large pizzas were ordered to feed the volunteer climbers at Saturday’s Climb for Connor fundraiser at Norwich University’s Shapiro Field House. (Photo by Nick Fischer.)

There were also increases in the number of climbers (224 this year, up from 118 in 2019, a 90 percent jump), climbs recorded (1,294, up from 827, a 56.4 percent jump) and money raised ($3,742 and counting on Monday morning, up from $2,250, a 66.3 percent jump).

The climbers in Northfield were of all ages (Dave DeMag is 57; Everett Anderson is 3). Anyone who wanted to climb could; as a reward, they received free salad and pizza. Thirty-five large pies were consumed.

It was the climb’s sixth year; before Saturday, the climbs had raised $25,000 for the CJR Memorial Fund Ltd., which awards scholarships to high school students to pursue higher education and support youth sports programs in St. Albans, Vermont, where Roberts grew up.

Men’s lacrosse players from Norwich and Castleton climbed concurrently on their own campuses, for the fundraiser. Castleton’s statistics from Saturday weren’t available.

High energy

Nick Fischer, associate head coach of the men’s lacrosse team, said enthusiasm was high from the start Saturday.

“At noon, the line for participants was out the door and around up the stairs,” he said. “It was amazing. And the activity was never slow the whole time.”

Castleton and Norwich climbed concurrently because they shared connections with Roberts’ family. Connor’s brother Ben Roberts played ice hockey and football for Castleton before graduating in 2014; their sister Danielle played ice hockey at Castleton before graduating in 2013. Ben Roberts had managed Castleton’s rock climbing wall and helped hatch the idea for the climbathon. (Danielle attended Saturday’s climb.)

Roberts, who played two lacrosse seasons for Norwich, was a 21-year-old junior when he died from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the myocardium, or heart muscle, thickens abnormally, which can impede blood circulation.

The Mayo Clinic online notes that although hypertrophic cardiomyopathy sometimes causes shortness of breath, chest pain or life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms, many people suffer no symptoms and live normally, never suspecting trouble.

Fischer said his players had effectively spread the word of Roberts’ story before this year’s climb.

“I was in the (climber line) explaining to a student why we do this and he stopped me and said, ‘I know,’” Fischer said.




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