Ain’t No Mountain

Slade Giles, Legacy Project…

Slade Giles delivers a simple, yet heartfelt message: If you do anything, invest in your community; if you can be anything, be kind.

The 43-year-old Palo Cedro resident also happens to live that message. In fact, he credits that guiding belief with keeping him alive. To aid in his battle with cancer, he has set the goal of establishing an orphanage in Tanzania. “It’s given me a whole new spirit with life,” he says.

Giles’ penchant for giving back was evident during his undergraduate studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, and later at Touro University California, where he earned a master’s in public health while researching Alzheimer’s disease. Giles says his first dream was to be a doctor: “I always wanted to help people.”

That dream expanded in graduate school. Giles was inspired to change healthcare on a national scale and he decided to pursue a master’s in business administration with an emphasis in enterprise information systems.

That brings him to 2018, the eventful year that saw him both complete Leadership Redding and be named Firefighter of the Year by the Jones Valley Volunteer Fire Company. The excitement started in July when Giles, who was vacationing in Thailand, learned the devastating Carr Fire had started.

Giles, who was riding an elephant in a jungle when he got the news, spent the next three days in a mad dash back to the states to help his fellow firefighters. “I got in just in time for the ‘fire-nados,’” he says, referring to the cyclones of flames that roared to life when the fire neared the Redding city limits.

Giles continued fighting fires until graduate school started at Chico State University. During his first week in the MBA program, he was diagnosed with cancer and underwent emergency surgery at Mercy Medical Center. The diagnosis curtailed another of Giles’ ambitious plans: summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro with his friend Frank Kivuvo.

The pair meant to turn the expedition into a fundraiser for children in Tanzania. While Giles began a grueling chemotherapy regimen (seven hours a day, five days a week), Kivuvo and his friends completed the Kilimanjaro climb, using Giles’ cancer battle as inspiration.

Challenges did not let up during the winter of 2018. “I lost a lot of people who were important to me and then the cancer metastasized. I needed something to keep me going,” Giles says. Unsure if he’d ever realize his biggest dream – a family of his own – Giles set his sights on leaving a legacy for some of the millions of Tanzanian children forced into manual labor.

Slade’s Cancer Fight Legacy Project, established in 2019, seeks to furnish as many children as possible with shoes and, ultimately, construct an orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. “I felt that once I was able to fight for other people, it gave me the spirit to fight and go forward,” Giles says.

Giles credits his project with helping his body ward off cancer’s advances. “Cancer can take off when everything is wearing on me. Having this project and awesome people in my life has given me a positive outlook. It pushed me to get through it.”

While he waits for his planned ascent of the 19,241-foot-tall Kilimanjaro in the summer of 2021, Giles has been busy working on other ideas he hopes will change the world for the better. They include an electronic health records system based on blockchain technology; an app to help people connect with first responders during an emergency; and an idea to revolutionize the way IV machines are made (developed during his countless hours of chemo infusions).

None of which surprises Redding physician Sam Van Kirk, a longtime friend of Giles. “He’s always thinking of ways to help others. His legacy project is a natural extension of his personality,” Van Kirk says. “He’s very good at the connectivity side of technology, getting people to work better together and forming synergistic relationships.”

Giles has mixed action in with his ideas and in July, despite a low hemoglobin count from his chemotherapy, he pushed his way to the top of Mt. Shasta. He says it was an eight-hour hike to get to base camp on the first day and another seven hours to the summit on the next day. “I used every little tiny bit of my body to get to the top. I shed a tear. It was such an emotional experience because I did it, despite the obstacles.”

Those obstacles included breaking his crampons during his descent when he found himself hanging from his ice axe while trying to make repairs and worrying that the 75-mph wind gusts would blow him off the mountain.

Giles made it back to level ground and was able to incorporate elements of his journey into the commencement address he was invited to deliver to Chico State’s master’s graduates. “Start building your community today,” he says. “We’re not guaranteed tomorrow. You just might be the example that people always remember: the person who makes others feel lucky to have in their life.”

To learn about Slade’s Cancer Fight Legacy Project, visit

About Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a Redding-based writer with 37 years of experience. A longtime San Francisco Giants fan, his interests include golf, fishing and sharing stories about people, places and things. He can be reached at [email protected]

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