Ryan Hunt – Mountain Extrodinaire for Officer Assistance Fund

Mesa police officer scales mountains for charity

Ryan HuntIn his mind Mesa Police Officer Ryan Hunt pictures the view from the 14,411 foot peak of Washington’s Mt. Rainier, as he places 85 pounds of weights into his backpack for yet another training workout.

In preparation for the climb, which begins Sunday and ends June 12, Hunt runs about 30 minutes on the treadmill and about another half-hour with his weighed-down pack on the stair-mill.

“It’s testing yourself – that and the view from the top is spectacular,” the Gilbert resident said of his new-found love of climbing towering mountains. “I’ve been in the outdoors my whole life.”

Hunt recently climbed Northern Arizona’s Humphries Peak, and he mastered the ascent to the highest point in the lower 48-states – Mt. Whitney, Calif., which reaches 14,505 feet as it towers over glacial lakes.

“I just started getting into it a year ago and started concentrating on peaks,” Hunt said.

While his mind set on landscapes and views nearly three vertical miles skyward, the Mt. Rainier climb is different. This climb is for his fellow police officers and the Mesa Police Association’s Officer Assistance Fund.

“(The climb) has always kind of been an individual effort and a goal, so I just thought: ‘Why am I not doing this for a cause?'” Hunt said.

The climber received sponsors, whose logos have been embroidered on his climbing clothing, while others have donated to the fund directly.

The fund provides financial assistance to fallen officers or those involved in a tragic event, and their families. Most recently the fund aided a pair of officer’s whose infant was mauled to death in March by the family dog.

“I watched (the association) step up in their need,” Hunt said.

Funds are offered to officers from throughout the state and in many forms of need, said Sgt. Fabian Cota, president of the Mesa Police Association, the larger of two police unions that represent Mesa police officers.

“I think it’s great when officers are willing to give their time to help other officers. Officers are giving people,” Cota said.

Through donations, the association raises about $15,000 for the fund each year, Cota said. Funds cover everything from the group’s Blue Santa Program, which buys Christmas presents for the families of fallen officers, to hotel rooms for officers displaced by tragedy.

About 10 officers have received assistance this year through the fund, which has helped officers from Tucson, Casa Grande and Phoenix.

“We want to make it easier on the families,” Cota said of the fund, of which Hunt is a supporter.

Hunt moved to the Valley from Huntington Beach, Calif. and was a mechanic before becoming a patrol officer with Mesa police 12 years ago. He was recently assigned to the Red Mountain Division Street Crimes Unit.

“I like the diversity of being an officer,” Hunt says. “It’s just one of the things I always thought about doing. My wife calls me an adrenaline junkie.”

The hike up Mt. Rainier begins with a six-day school, with the first two days culminating with a stay 10,000 feet up the mountain at Camp Muir.

There climbers will learn crevasse rescues, ice climbing, glacial travel and how to stop one’s self from sliding down glacial ice.

“It’s pretty much all the skills you need to get to the summit,” Hunt said.

On Thursday, Hunt and his fellow climbers will begin their six-hour ascension up the mountain, under cover of darkness. Once reaching the summit, he will return to Camp Muir and to his family.

While he readies to put another summit behind him, Hunt has Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Alaska’s Mt. McKinley in his mind. For now though, Mt. Rainier and raising funds benefiting his fellow Mesa police officers is in the foreground.

“There is a lot more interest in this climb now. It’s making the whole thing more moving for me,” he said.

For more information visit www.mesampa.com and donations can be made at all Wells Fargo Banks under the Mesa Officer Assistance Fund.