Climbing for a Cause
Exactly one year ago, I successfully completed my dream of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. Months before I left for my big adventure, I decided to raise money for an organization that means so much to me – Special Olympics Nova Scotia. Luckily, Special Olympics coordinators accepted the challenge of creating an online donation link on their website; and shortly thereafter, many of my friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers began donating in my name. Thank you to all who donated, and to those who offered their encouragement.
A Common Goal
In summary, my experience was nothing short of amazing. It took me and my group of trekkers eight days to climb the mountain and two days to return. While it wasn’t easy, the group made it fun. We were strangers when we started, and with long days of walking slowly in a group, we quickly became friends. Incidentally, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between climbing a mountain with the goal of reaching the summit, and competing in the Special Olympics with the goal of attaining a medal.
Like every Special Olympic athlete, nobody reached the top on their own. For the 10 climbers in my group, there were 52 porters who carried our food, water, tents, and backpacks. I compared the porters to the friends and families of Special Olympic athletes who do so much work behind the scenes that they are essential to the success of the mission. We also had three guides who acted like our coaches – they set our pace; told us when to rest, drink, eat; and, they even monitored our heart rates and daily oxygen levels. Like any good coach, they led us to the top. As for my fellow trekkers, they were my team. We encouraged each other, helped one another and when we all reached the summit, everybody cried, “WE did it!”
Enjoy the Journey
It wasn’t until I started making my way back down the mountain that I realized the most important lesson I had learned was to enjoy the journey. I was surprised to find out that a trek made with strangers over ten days, with no shower facilities, was even more enjoyable than reaching the summit – that which I had feared most was actually the most enjoyable part of the expedition! I realized that we are all in this together and to succeed, we must not only depend on others, but encourage others to achieve their goals. While it has taken me many years to come to this realization, it is a knowledge that every Special Olympic athlete seems to already have.