Since 2007, Jason Deavalon has done four treks, including one to Mount Everest, and raised $200,000 for Smile Network.


Lots of miles behind the smiles

  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • December 24, 2011 - 1:54 PM

Salon owner Jason Deavalon's life was "a mess" until he learned about a friend's nonprofit organization, which eventually changed everything.

As Deavalon shampooed and snipped, he started asking Kim Valentini, founder of the nonprofit Smile Network, about her mission to raise money for cleft-palate surgeries.

In March 2007, Deavalon signed on to do a trek to Peru to raise money for the organization. Since then, he has done three more treks, including one to Mount Everest, and raised $200,000 for Smile Network.

He leaves in July for Mount Kilimanjaro. His journeys have turned out to be as emotional as they are physical.


ON THE MOVE: "I was a chubby kid. I was born in Minneapolis, but I moved around a lot. I didn't do sports, because I wasn't ever around enough."

PRIMED FOR PERU: "When I was 35, I realized it was time to grow up. [After I signed up to go to Peru,] I changed -- from the inside out. I stopped playing, drinking and smoking. I started eating a special diet -- I haven't had sugar or grains since then. I hired a trainer and got into kung fu and meditation. Still, you don't know what you're in for if never done it before."

BENCHING FOR BACKPACKING: "I'm preparing for Kilimanjaro much like I did for Everest, only more strength work -- more strength makes the backpack easier to carry. [Every week] I do four hours of strength training, two hours of Pilates, karate, stretching and get a massage."

NO DOOR-KNOCKING: "I'm kind of an employee without a paycheck," he said, referring to the Smile Network. "I pay my own way and then have fundraising parties to raise money afterward."

FINDING PEACE: "The most influential person in my life, my grandma, died three days before I went to Peru. I was the last person to talk to her before she went into a coma. She told me to go, and my sister read the eulogy I wrote at her funeral. The second-highest point at Machu Picchu is a graveyard for Mayans, and I had a small ceremony for her there. It was really emotional. Each day [of the trek] represented a different emotion. The last day was anger. But about 100 yards before the Sun Gate [which marks the end of the trek], I had an overwhelming sense of peace."

FOR THE LONG RUN: "A lot of [personal] healing has come from helping others. It's been a goal of mine to do as many treks as I possibly can. I'll keep doing these journeys till they run me out."

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