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Former UNH Students Will Hike 500,000 Feet in National Parks to Raise Money for Scholarship Fund of Professor Lost to Cancer

By Sharon Keeler
UNH News Bureau
(603) 862-1566

June 13, 2003


DURHAM, N.H. -- When the University of New Hampshire lost one of its beloved teachers to ovarian cancer three years ago, it left a hole in the Department of Occupational Therapy as well as in the hearts of many colleagues, students and friends.

Professor Maureen Neistadt

Professor Maureen Neistadt touched the lives of many. That she was excellent was no doubt. She was honored three times by UNH for her efforts in teaching, outreach and research. Now, one of her former students is setting out on a cross-country hike to raise money for Neistadt's scholarship fund and honor the woman who inspired her.

"Moe was passionate about teaching, giving, loving, sharing, laughing and living," says Amy Craig, an occupational therapist who graduated from UNH in 1998. "This journey is my personal crusade to honor her and challenge myself physically, spiritually, emotionally and even financially. Maureen inspired me to make my dreams a reality because life is a gift that is both precious and short."

Lori Upham (left) and Amy Craig

Craig, of Dover, is quitting her job, giving up her apartment and storing her possessions this summer as she sets out June 24 on her quest to conquer 500,000 feet of mountains -- 100 miles -- hiking in national parks across the country. A friend, Lori Upham, of Newmarket, will join her. A third grade teacher at McDonough Elementary School in Manchester and a 1985 UNH graduate, Upham is taking a leave of absence from her position to make the journey. With a lifelong dream of going cross-country, she says the cause was enough to push her to make it a reality. She sold her house and bought a 2003 Volkswagen Eurovan with MOEBILE vanity license plates.

"Amy's passion was to raise money for Maureen - I just wanted to rejuvenate my spirit of adventure," Upham says. "But as we started fundraising, my inspiration shifted. I am hiking in memory of my grandfather who died from colon cancer, my uncle who died from stomach cancer, my grandmother who battles colon cancer, and my mom who is a breast cancer survivor. Their battles are driving me to push myself way past my comfort level."

Craig says others who have fallen victim to cancer, including an aunt and friend who was the mother of twins, have also touched her life. Four years ago she joined the fight against cancer participating in such events as the three-day Avon Walk For Breast Cancer, raising more that $4,000 toward the cause.

"Cancer has taken away inspirational, passionate, loving women, and in the process shown me the fragility of life," Craig says. "As I hike the many miles up peaks across the U.S., I will remember the strength, courage and often pain of so many who have endured throughout their treatments with cancer."

So far, Craig and Upham have raised approximately $3,000 for the Maureen Neistadt Scholarship Fund -- including a gift from Maureen's husband Jerry -- bringing the total fund to more than $25,000. They've set up a Web site, www.moutainsformoe.com, where they hope to update people on their journey, which will take them to such places as Virginia, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, California, Washington, the Dakotas, and Canada.

For those wishing to contribute, donations can be made to the UNH Foundation/Neistadt Fund with "mountainsformoe" in the memo section. The scholarship is given to students in the occupational therapy program who embody Neidstadt's spirit. Send donations to the UNH Foundation/Neistadt Fund, Elliot Alumni Center, 9 Edgewood Rd., Durham, NH 03824.

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