AIM gears up to 'Conquer the Canyon'


Thirteen members of the Mercyhurst University community will experience the rich natural beauty and immense size of the Grand Canyon next week as they embark on the adventure of their lives.

Several Mercyhurst staff, led by Brad McGarry, coordinator of the Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM), will join nine students for AIM’s May 20-24 trip to hike parts of Arizona and the Grand Canyon. Their itinerary is being managed by Conquer the Canyon, which creates adventures for individuals and groups, including people whose lives are affected by genetic disorders, cancers, diabetes, homelessness and poverty.

“Although all 13 participants will experience a personal journey unlike any other, they will also serve as ambassadors of AIM and raise awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD),” said McGarry, who noted that nationwide students across the spectrum are applying to colleges and universities in record numbers. AIM is a pioneering program that fosters awareness, training and educational services to ensure that these students will be successful in their academic and vocational endeavors.

Just the fundraising necessary to offer the trip was an exercise in social skills training. “Our program’s social skills training is outstanding, but nothing compares to the real-life practice of asking others to support you in a mission and experience that you feel strongly about,” McGarry said.

Besides raising awareness for ASD, the trip is a unique opportunity for participants to experience the Grand Canyon and its surroundings with expert guides who are adept at dealing with hikers spanning all degrees of difficulty. The trip includes travel through the Sonoran Desert to the Red Rock Country of Sedona, through Oak Creek Canyon and onto the Grand Canyon, as well as a “calm water” float on the Colorado River.

Besides McGarry, participants include Aaron Sanner from the admissions office; AIM intern Paulina Wielandt; McGarry’s fiancé, Aimee Setterberg; and nine students – eight of whom are in the AIM program.

For more information on AIM, contact McGarry at

PHOTO: Brad McGarry hiking during previous Conquer the Canyon trip.






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