After I did some fundraising for the Leukaemia Foundation earlier in 2016 and having ‘Liked’ their Facebook page, one day I was browsing my Facebook newsfeed when “Kilimanjaro Challenge 2017 for the Leukaemia Foundation” popped up. It immediately grabbed my attention.
Although I didn’t have a dream to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but have always wanted to travel to Africa, I saw the perfect opportunity to combine some things I love to do; fundraising for a very worthy cause, in this case the Leukaemia Foundation; facing a personal challenge, and travel. Even before reading through the details of what the challenge involves, I knew it was something I had to do.
In terms of Kilimanjaro specifically, for me I guess it’s somewhat representative of the challenges I’ve had to face in life to date:
• My wife being suddenly diagnosed with a life threatening illness (blood cancer) in 2006, which saw her being hospitalised many, many times over a period of 6 years;
• Being the primary carer for Anne during that 6 years while juggling raising our daughter and working;
• Anne unexpectedly loosing her battle with blood cancer in early 2012;
• Me then being diagnosed with cancer in 2013; and then
• A close friend of ours being diagnosed with Leukaemia in late 2015, who by the way had already faced but won his battle against the same disease as Anne some years earlier.
I’m dedicating my climb in memory of Anne and in celebration of Mark’s second chance at life.
I’ve fundraised before, but never anything near the target I’ve set myself, nor have I ever done anything like Kilimanjaro before. So a first in both respects, making it a true challenge. That said, as daunting as some of it seems, I’m also feeling quite driven and inspired to succeed. Based on the support I’ve received to date, and not just monetary, I feel inspired to give this my all, but I know it’s going to challenge me both physically and mentally. I am however somewhat saddened by the events that lead me to this point. Plus there’s the unknowns, especially how my body will cope and react to the altitude and of course cold climate. So I’m also feeling a little anxious, but at the opposite end of the scale, I am also very excited about the whole experience and the lifelong memories it’s going to create.
The generosity of people by far and not just monetary donations. The support I’ve received in terms of organising and promoting events, hosting events, donating raffle and auction items, and sharing my challenge journey with others, has been nothing short of amazing. I’ve got some pretty amazing people in my life and surrounding me, which I will always be very thankful for. Outside of that, fundraising events are by far the most memorable. They allow you to connect with people, to share your story and journey face-to-face, hear their stories and thank them personally for their support. Plus they are a lot of fun and the end result being the money raise and awareness spread, is by far worth all the time and effort that goes into planning and organising.
Even though I’ve been involved in fundraising before, definitely the fundraising. I’m also training regularly to prepare for the physical and mental challenges, which I know I’m going to face, but finding ways to increase fundraising has certainly been a challenge.
Sure family and friends have contributed, but there’s only so much they can donate and when you set a fundraising goal like I have, it’s a big ask! I know it’s a big ask for a stranger or business to support someone they don’t know and/or perhaps a charity they know little about, but I know from my first hand experience with the Leukaemia Foundation, that they are doing great things to support individuals and their families through what is a very stressful and difficult time.
Sponsorship is one area that I’ve been continually working on, but unfortunately not had a great deal of success with. However I haven’t let that deter me and I’ve just continued to push forward. My Personal Trainer (Brent Peters Personal Training) who was already my trainer at Goodlife Fountain Gate before the challenge, jumped on-board immediately when I told him about the challenge. Brent very generously provides me with one free training session per week (since I signed on in July/August 2016 and will continue all the way up until we depart for Tanzania). I train with Brent three times per week, one of which is the complementary sessions, plus I do one session on my own and try and do a Yoga class once a week. Although Brent has since tailored my overall program around the Challenge, the free training session is specifically focused on preparing me for the climb. This session started off being called my “Kilimanjaro (Kili) Session” but I quickly changed that to my “Killer Session”. Brent knows how to push me, both physically and mentally, which I know is very important for Kilimanjaro.
I know from having completed other physical challenges in the past that your mind plays a big part in conquering the physical. Plus having spoken to others who have climbed Kilimanjaro, they have all said it’s 80% mentality.
Obviously living in Australia we don’t have mountains as high as Kilimanjaro. So training and getting an opportunity to test my body for the altitude has been be difficult, but fortunately not impossible. I managed to find three fitness clubs around Melbourne that have an Altitude Training Chamber. The chamber can simulate up to 5,000 metres. Although we will be trekking higher than that, having the opportunity to train in such a chamber is better than none at all. At the time of writing this I completed my initial Tolerance Test in the chamber only the day before. It was tougher than I thought. Amazing how much less oxygen can affect you!