"When somebody needs help, we're the ones that go out and do it," Adam Derito, a first-year team member, said. "That's probably the best reward you can get out of doing this volunteer job is just bringing somebody back home to their family."
The volunteers come from all walks of life. There are software engineers, corporate officials, paralegals and personal trainers. All of them share the common goal of wanting to give back to their community.
"I'd been looking for something to do to give back and being an outdoors-person, it seemed the right fight for me," Eric Cheldelin, a software engineer, said. "This is my way of giving back."
The group is camping out in the Pike National Forest because past experience has taught them there are enough accidents on holiday weekends that they need to be close enough to respond. Some of them have been sleeping in tents, trailers or under the stars.
"If we're down below, it's going to take us at least a half an hour or more to respond. This way, if we're on scene, people can walk in and ask us questions or if someone gets lost, we're right here," Rose Cusack, who has been on the team for five years, said.
At any moment, the volunteers can be expected to belay down a cliff to lift out an injured hiker, walk a dozen miles searching for someone or to stabilize a motorcycle rider with a broken back and internal injuries from a bad crash. That's why they train for more than 40 hours a month for nine months before getting out into the field to actually work.
"If you have a kid wander off, he can be anywhere. And you can be searching through the woods, steep slopes, cliffs, there's no telling what you will run into," Darrell Summers, who has been on the team one year, said.
First-year team member Andrew Christensen, a corporate manager for DISH Network, volunteered after rescuers saved him two years ago. He was hiking with his dog along a 16-mile loop around Palmer Lake when he sprained his ankle and lost the trail. When he didn't show up later that night, his brother got worried and called El Paso and Douglas County Search and Rescue. They found him.
"I was very grateful for the help they gave me and for the time they put in and spent searching," Christensen said.
He says this is his way of repaying the debt and helping others.
The volunteers are strangers at first, but bond quickly in emergencies. Then, it's like family.
"It's enjoyable. But when everybody has to settle down and we have a real mission, everyone is professional and you know we're going to get the job done," Cusack said.
"I don't know who you are, but I'm willing to go hike 15 miles up a 14,000-foot mountain and pull someone off who got hurt. So, it's a unique experience and a unique camaraderie that we have," Derito said.
Douglas County Search and Rescue averages about 100 missions a year since it began in 1999.
This holiday weekend, so far, has been slow for the volunteers on Rampart Range. Friday, they quickly found a missing 6-year-old boy. Sunday, they removed a heavy tree that blocked a road. So, they kill time by talking, studying their maps and rescue guides and wait.
"We hope for nothing, but we're ready in case something does happen," Summers said.
If you have any news tips or story ideas, please email Investigative Reporter Deborah Sherman at Deborah.Sherman@9NEWS.com.
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