Oklahoma City University | Peak Friendship Skip to content

Peak Friendship

—By Aubrie Bowlan

Photos by Austin Shaw

Standing at the finish line of the Camp Barnabas Half Marathon, Connor Petty heard his friend Steven Marrs say that he had always wanted to complete a marathon. Trekking 26.22 miles is a significant feat for anyone, but Marrs decided he wouldn’t let cerebral palsy keep him from dreaming big.

“I know I am in a wheelchair, but why should that stop me?” Marrs asked. “I like doing stuff that makes me feel free.”

Since that conversation in 2014, Petty, a third-year Doctor of Nursing Practice student, and Marrs, aka Steve-O, have crossed the finish lines of many half- and full marathons. Through their determination and shared passions, they’ve become inseparable friends.

Six years later, they got the opportunity to take on the impossible.

Although Marrs is an Eagle Scout and loves the outdoors, he had very few opportunities to go camping. Petty decided a hiking trip to the San Luis Peak in Colorado was their next great challenge.

“We never knew how hard and long of a process that would be,” Petty said. “From the time we first mentioned it, it took us five years to complete the project.

“But it was worth it.”

The adventure didn’t come easy, though. Marrs’ limited mobility required specialized equipment, an expensive provision. Through a GoFundMe page dedicated to this need, friends and family along with complete strangers got to be part of the story. They raised more than $7,700, finally making the dream a reality.

“That’s when we knew we had a special friendship where we could dare to dream big, do the impossible, and invite a loving community to join in the journey,” Petty said.

After years of endurance training, mental preparation, and fundraising, the duo was ready to take on their next adventure. They didn’t disregard the responsibility they had to show donors they could do it, though.

Petty noted the intimidating and inspiring nature of others’ generosity in a time when generosity is more difficult to come by. Due to the pandemic, 2020 has been a financial challenge for nearly everyone.

“People are looking for love, hope, and courage in this time, and we found we could be a healing hand to a world that is hurting,” Petty said. “Just by showing our friendship, we are giving people a new perspective. And now we’re bringing others on this journey with us, which can be a weight of responsibility, but there is no other place I’d rather be.”

If the preparations for the trip were challenging, the hike itself was nothing short of colossal.

As the group neared 13,000 feet on the second day, they realized the chair was too risky as the trail became ever more steep and rocky.

“I put Steve-O on my back, and we hiked the 1.5 miles and 1,000-foot climb to the summit,” Petty said.

Marrs said of all the ways the two are alike, their ability to think outside the box was their biggest similarity.

This came to be extremely important when fallen trees and rough terrain almost cost the group their victory.

“Connor and I are both determined, so quitting wasn’t an option,” Marrs said.

As they neared the top of that Colorado mountain, they felt their differences fade. They were simply two people who had accomplished the impossible together.

“Being with your best friends—struggling, laughing, and finding new limits of possibility—is the best experience in the world,” Petty said. “And in the end, that’s why Steve-O and I do this. That’s why we run marathons and hike mountains.

“It all comes back to friendship, and that’s the best part of every adventure.”

When he’s not hiking mountains and running marathons, Petty dedicates his time to learning how to help people for a living as a nurse practitioner. His ability to go above and beyond expectations is exemplary of the Kramer School of Nursing, Assistant Professor Dr. Toni Frioux said.

“Not only does he perform well academically, but more importantly, he consistently gives of himself to his peers, family, and friends,” Frioux said. “His adventure with Steven is just one example of his commitment of service to others. They set a goal together, and with their determination and fortitude, they were able to achieve something that was quite phenomenal.”

Petty has found new ways to embody the Kramer mission of preparing nurses who practice with integrity, knowledge, and compassion. By taking on the seemingly impossible, he gained experience that will assist his professional development beyond the classroom.

“By climbing 14,000 feet, I hoped to give Steve-O a new perspective of the world outside of his chair … to feel truly free,” Petty said.

Marrs and Petty both felt inspired by their community’s support of their dream. Marrs hopes, in turn, to inspire others to dream big.

“I think it will make other people think outside the box and maybe do something impossible.”

Back to all blog
Back to Top