In 1987, Doug Stoup West Virginia ’83 served as pledge trainer for Frank Fumich West Virginia ’87. After college, Fumich says they had lost touch for a while. “When I turned 30, I started running crazy races and adventures. I realized he was living in this world, was an expert in the field, and I reconnected with him. I signed up to have him guide me to the North Pole.”
Ten years later, their trek to the South Pole left Fumich dealing with frostbite on his thumb. This moved him one challenge away from completing the Explorer’s Grand Slam — climbing the seven highest summits on each continent and skiing to both poles. He has Mt. Everest left to conquer.
Fumich, whose day job is running an airline catering company, hadn’t started out with that goal.
After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, he ran three back-to-back marathons in honor of the tragedy’s three victims, raising $26,200. To deliver the money, he and a friend took turns running and driving an RV from Washington, D.C., and they raised another $80,000 for survivors.
“People really got into it,” says Fumich, who lives in McLean, Virginia. “People would fill up our gas tank for free. Friends and total strangers joined us. It was an incredible experience.”
He continues frequently while raising money for charities. Over the last decade, he’s raised more than $400,000 and taken on 100-plus marathons as well as ultra-marathons, a bike race across the United States, six-day self-supported desert races and high-altitude races, to name a few.
“During those hours when you’re just in your own head, I’ve solved the world’s problems many times over,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’m usually so tired, I forget it when I’m done. But no one’s learned anything about themselves sitting on a couch.”
The big thing he learned along the way: You’re stronger than you think you are, and you can go farther than you think you can.
For Stoup, their arctic journeys were part of the job. As a polar guide who runs an adventure travel company, IceAxe, this year’s trip marks bad food, maybe a stomach bug. After skiing for six days, I had to get pulled out. But I was able to meet them at the pole.”
In 1999, Stoup completed his first ski and snowboard descent of Antarctica’s highest peak. He loved it so much that two months later, he chartered a Russian research vessel and pioneered ski touring on the Antarctic Peninsula. In 2000, he led Miles Hilton-Barber, a blind adventurer, on a 62-day trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, raising money for the Royal National Institute of Blind People along the way. He has since branched out into a diverse range of adventure expeditions to remote locales around the globe.
Conscious of the carbon footprint on these trips — from yachts, planes, helicopters, trains and other modes of transportation — he insists that his clients do some giving back along the way.
“I make my clients raise money for charity, telling them to choose something close to them,” Stoup says. “Frank, in parallel, decided to do the same thing.”
Stoup maintains the mindset of a mentor and is quick to acknowledge Fumich’s accomplishments. “It’s remarkable to watch his adventures — pushing the limits of human endurance for charities and causes he believes in. Sure, I do that, but not to that level — he’s amazing,” he says. “But we’re both professional sufferers. We suffer for a living.”
Calling Lake Tahoe home, Stoup also is involved as a mentor for Phi Psi brothers, helping them follow their passions, and he visits their Fraternity house at West Virginia University a couple of times a year.
“Phi Psi has helped me become a gentleman and someone who wants to be selfless,” he says. “That’s a strong point with Phi Psi, and I didn’t have that before.”
After 19 years in various word-based roles at The Indianapolis Star, Leigh Hedger switched from telling stories with words to telling stories with data as associate director of marketing analytics for the Kelley School of Business. An Indiana University alumna, she enjoys traveling the world in pursuit of craft beer, rolling out the barrel in a polka band, and experimenting to see whether a tragic gardener like herself can grow peanuts in Indiana.