Food & Drink

Kevin Zelko’s Climb of a Lifetime

This notorious cancer survivor plans to climb Mt. Rainier with a 46-lb. MLS trophy in tow

By Evan Webeck July 31, 2015


This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Seattle magazine.

Four years ago, he gained notoriety for using Twitter (@Msbeervendor) to sell beer at Safeco Field. Three years later, he was back in the news for raising $25,000 to buy Seahawks jerseys for every kid at Seattle’s Kimball Elementary, where he taught special education. But now, Kevin Zelko is raising money for a much more personal cause: cancer research.

The punk rocker turned teacher turned beer vendor battled and beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma, after being diagnosed in November 2014. To give back to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Zelko organized friends from Gorilla FC, a Seattle Sounders fan group and philanthropic organization that he founded, to raise $40,000 by climbing Mount Rainier this month. Only it won’t be just him and his friends: Zelko is adding even more meaning to the climb by hauling the Supporters’ Shield—a 46-pound sterling silver trophy given to the Major League Soccer team with the best regular season record—4,000 feet up the mountain, as well.

Zelko not only wants to put a cap on his battle with cancer, but also to set the bar for future holders of the trophy, compelling them to ask, “The shield helped raise $40,000 for cancer; what are we going to do with it?”

What you need to know about Zelko

  • Beer vending may have helped save Zelko’s life. After multiple misdiagnoses of eczema, Zelko discovered a tumor when he injured his arm while working at a Seahawks game.
  • Zelko previously raised $25,000 for cancer research at his 40th birthday party in February at Fremont Abbey, where local rockers Minus the Bear and Daniel G. Harmann played. “It ended up being one of the most beautiful nights of my life,” he says.
  • In order to train for the climb, Zelko is taking a break from beer vending, including (at his girlfriend’s insistence) during the Seahawks-Broncos preseason game the night before the three-day climb, which begins August 15.
  • Zelko has never been much of a hiker or climber. He says he would not be attempting Rainier if it weren’t for his bout with cancer.


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