There’s no mountain too high for charitable Atlantan

Lisa Simmons, an Atlanta businesswoman with a great sense of adventure, recently climbed to the top of Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain to raise money for BlazeSports America. The nonprofit is a leader in adaptive sports for the physically challenged. To date, Simmons' hard work has raised nearly $70,000. Courtesy of Lisa Simmons
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Lisa Simmons, an Atlanta businesswoman with a great sense of adventure, recently climbed to the top of Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain to raise money for BlazeSports America. The nonprofit is a leader in adaptive sports for the physically challenged. To date, Simmons' hard work has raised nearly $70,000. Courtesy of Lisa Simmons

Local business owner Lisa Simmons will go to great heights to help her favorite charity: Atlanta-based BlazeSports America.

Last month, Simmons climbed to the top of Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain in the Andes Mountains of Peru to raise money for the nonprofit that helps the physically disabled and is a legacy of Atlanta’s hosting of the 1996 Paralympic Games.

Caption
Portrait of local Atlanta businesswoman, Lisa Simmons, President of Beacon Management, at Don White Memorial Park in Roswell. Simmons will be hiking one of the seven wonders of the modern world to help raise money for Blazesports. The nonprofit organization was founded after the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and is a leader in the field of adaptive sports & recreation. This will be Lisa's third fundraiser for the organization, with her total raised at more than $70,000. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Portrait of local Atlanta businesswoman, Lisa Simmons, President of Beacon Management, at Don White Memorial Park in Roswell. Simmons will be hiking one of the seven wonders of the modern world to help raise money for Blazesports. The nonprofit organization was founded after the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and is a leader in the field of adaptive sports & recreation. This will be Lisa's third fundraiser for the organization, with her total raised at more than $70,000. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Portrait of local Atlanta businesswoman, Lisa Simmons, President of Beacon Management, at Don White Memorial Park in Roswell. Simmons will be hiking one of the seven wonders of the modern world to help raise money for Blazesports. The nonprofit organization was founded after the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and is a leader in the field of adaptive sports & recreation. This will be Lisa's third fundraiser for the organization, with her total raised at more than $70,000. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

To date, with three major hikes under her belt, she’s collected nearly $70,000 in donations for the nonprofit that focuses on giving children and adults with physical disabilities the chance to play sports and live healthy, active lives.

“I’ve always enjoyed philanthropy, volunteering, and giving back,” said the 52-year-old longtime Atlantan and president of Beacon Management Services. “I’ve also always been an avid hiker and outdoorsman – hang-gliding, sky-diving, going to far-flung places, and doing adventurous things. So, when I was introduced to BlazeSports, I just felt a real affinity for them and the people they serve.”

Caption
Lisa Simmons, an Atlanta businesswoman with a great sense of adventure, recently climbed to the top of Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain to raise money for BlazeSports America. The nonprofit is a leader in adaptive sports for the physically challenged. To date, Simmons' hard work has raised more than $70,000. Courtesy of Lisa Simmons

Lisa Simmons, an Atlanta businesswoman with a great sense of adventure, recently climbed to the top of Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain to raise money for BlazeSports America. The nonprofit is a leader in adaptive sports for the physically challenged. To date, Simmons' hard work has raised more than $70,000. Courtesy of Lisa Simmons
Caption
Lisa Simmons, an Atlanta businesswoman with a great sense of adventure, recently climbed to the top of Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain to raise money for BlazeSports America. The nonprofit is a leader in adaptive sports for the physically challenged. To date, Simmons' hard work has raised more than $70,000. Courtesy of Lisa Simmons

Simmons grew up in Winston Salem, N.C., attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, came to Atlanta after college, and never left.

“I fell in love with Atlanta’s energy and vitality,” she said.

Simmons says she “hit the jackpot” early in her real estate career, working for Atlanta real estate icon Tom Cousins for 13 years. After the Great Recession of 2008, she shifted into property management and launched her own company, Beacon Management Services, in 2011.

“I’ve grown with Atlanta,” said Simmons, who is married with three stepdaughters and is always thinking of the next big adventure.

Caption
Lisa Simmons, an Atlanta businesswoman, climbed Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain in Peru in August as part of her efforts to fundraise for BlazeSports America. The nonprofit is part of the legacy of Atlanta's hosting of the 1996 Paralympics. Courtesy of Lisa Simmons

Credit: Special to The AJC

Lisa Simmons, an Atlanta businesswoman, climbed Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain in Peru in August as part of her efforts to fundraise for BlazeSports America. The nonprofit is part of the legacy of Atlanta's hosting of the 1996 Paralympics. Courtesy of Lisa Simmons
Caption
Lisa Simmons, an Atlanta businesswoman, climbed Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain in Peru in August as part of her efforts to fundraise for BlazeSports America. The nonprofit is part of the legacy of Atlanta's hosting of the 1996 Paralympics. Courtesy of Lisa Simmons

Credit: Special to The AJC

Credit: Special to The AJC

In 2018, on a hike to prepare her for the 20-plus mile Grand Canyon Rim to Rim, she started mulling over ways to use her passion for the outdoors to help others.

“For some reason, I started to think about people who couldn’t walk or who have a prosthetic. One thing leads to another, and I find BlazeSports in Norcross, 20 minutes from my office,” Simmons said.

She attended a BlazeSports track and field meet and was hooked. Her “bucket list” Grand Canyon hike was transformed into a fundraiser for the nonprofit.

A year later, she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single, free-standing mountain in the world, with the same mission.

The pandemic put the kibosh on her plans for 2020, but only for a year.

This year, in preparation for her August hike in Peru, Simmons stepped up the strength training, squats, lunges and cardio, with the help of her longtime trainer, Marwane Balde. As hike time approached, she spent every Saturday hiking Stone Mountain for six to eight hours, going up and down multiple times, carrying a 35-pound backpack.

The experience at Machu Picchu was unforgettable, she said.

“It’s physically stunning and hard to get to on the Inca Trail,” Simmons said. “More impressive to me was the history of the indigenous people who built Machu Picchu by hand in the mid-1400s as a sacred place for worship, agriculture and perpetuating their civilization. Everyone should see it for themselves.”

She has already made a reservation for next year’s fundraising trip to Mountain Elbrus, the highest peak of Russia’s Caucasus Mountains. She hopes to eventually conquer the highest summits on all seven continents, all for the benefit of BlazeSports.

“I’ll keep going as long as I can,” Simmons said.

Dawn Churi, executive director of BlazeSports America, said that what Simmons is doing “is meaningful in so many ways.”

“Of course, the fundraising is important,” she said. “Adaptive sports are incredibly expensive to run. But she’s also introducing people to the world of adaptive sports and what Blaze is doing. And that’s really monumental with her connections here in Atlanta.”

The Paralympics of 1996 showcased the power of adaptive sports, especially at that high level of competition. BlazeSports continues today to encourage those types of competitions, but also offers participants a chance to participate in weekly programs, Churi said.

In addition, the nonprofit no longer focuses just on disabled young people and helping them exceed athletically with the help of specially designed equipment. It has expanded through the years to open adaptive sports to veterans and people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Churi said.

Simmons says she’s inspired by the group’s mission: helping physically challenged people live their best lives.

“That’s a really powerful message,” she said. “The people that they help – especially the children who could otherwise feel sorry for themselves – are out there playing basketball, archery, swimming or involved in track and field.”


Caption
Photo of local Atlanta business woman, Lisa Simmons, President of Beacon Management, at Don White Memorial Park in Roswell. Simmons will be hiking one of the seven wonders of the modern world to help raise money for Blazesports. The nonprofit organization was founded after the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and is a leader in the field of adaptive sports & recreations. This will be LisaÕ third fundraiser for the organization, with her total raised at more than $70,000. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Photo of local Atlanta business woman, Lisa Simmons, President of Beacon Management, at Don White Memorial Park in Roswell. Simmons will be hiking one of the seven wonders of the modern world to help raise money for Blazesports. The nonprofit organization was founded after the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and is a leader in the field of adaptive sports & recreations. This will be LisaÕ third fundraiser for the organization, with her total raised at more than $70,000. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Photo of local Atlanta business woman, Lisa Simmons, President of Beacon Management, at Don White Memorial Park in Roswell. Simmons will be hiking one of the seven wonders of the modern world to help raise money for Blazesports. The nonprofit organization was founded after the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and is a leader in the field of adaptive sports & recreations. This will be LisaÕ third fundraiser for the organization, with her total raised at more than $70,000. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

MORE DETAILS

In her own words: Lisa Simmons’ five observations/lessons from her recent trek to Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain

  • There’s beauty and restoration in unplugging from technology and connecting with nature.
  • Experiencing other cultures through travel makes you a better human being.
  • It’s necessary to get out of your comfort zone to see what you’re made of.
  • The world’s overconsumption of its natural resources is unsustainable.
  • I would rather wear out than rust out.