A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be a part of an amazing event called Wings of Kilimanjaro. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, the plan was for about 200 climbers from around the world to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and then paraglide off the top. Each person would raise a minimum of $5,000 for charitable work in Tanzania, thus raising over $1 million and having an incredible adventure in the process. Sound ambitious? Without a doubt. Crazy? Not at all. As I came to appreciate both before and during the climb, this was a very well thought out endeavor involving truly world-class athletes. They were up for the challenge and in the end 95 people from 27 countries summited and over $500,000 was raised for Plant With Purpose, World Serve and the One Difference Foundation.
It was amazing, and yes, it was an adventure. (from Webster’s, “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.”) In this case, the challenges associated with climbing Kilimanjaro and jumping off the top were the known risks…
I don’t want to bore you with a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account. So I’m going to just mention what for me personally were some highlights. This post will cover the first half of the event, a second post will cover summit day and some post-trip reflections.
1) Adrian and Paula McRae, our intrepid organizers. People of vision, who invested heart, soul and tremendous resources into this event, for the sake of the adventure and out of a very genuine desire to help people in Tanzania. I worked with them for two years and am grateful to have had the experience
2) Color-coding. How do you move 95 climbers, plus 600 porters and guides up the highest free-standing mountain in the world? Divide into colored teams and get to know your porters and guides. Team Red ready to hike!
Red and Yellow, Black and White…man that’s a lot of stuff…
3) Global Fundraising. No doubt, one of the true highlights for me was getting to know my fellow climbers and hearing about the effort each of them had made to participate. They worked extra shifts to save money for the climb, they held fundraising events in their local communities, they sought out matching gifts from employers, they got sponsored by local businesses in their communities, and so on. I know how hard it can be to raise money and was humbled to hear just a few of their stories. I also really appreciated their interest in Plant With Purpose; they wanted to understand our work and where the money was going, so that they could pass that on to the people who supported them.
4) Beauty. I had not really thought about this, but Kilimanjaro is a magnificent mountain to climb. You start in a rainforest with monkeys watching from the trees, and finish in the barren snow and rock. Many times as I walked I felt overwhelmed with gratitude just to be there, and grateful to my family and Plant With Purpose for making it possible for me to participate.
As I alluded to at the before, not everything went as planned on this trip. While that made the journey harder, there were some really important and valuable things that came out of that for me- and I think for many in the group. I’ll write about that next week.