Make it a Story – Climb for Kids Kilimanjaro

So yesterday I got this encouraging note from Allan Neal of CBC Ottawa.

This was in response to my tweet about wanting to get some media coverage for Climb for Kids – a pretty difficult thing to do in the very crowded stage of radio and television coverage. I do agree, telling the story is what it is all about. Having a hook that will get people’s attention is a challenge, when there are so many stories out there in our city.

Elia Saikaly, an Ottawa native shot this video of the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro using a drone – this is where we plan to be in early August 2020

So, here we go. Here are some of the stories:

  • in 2017, middle -age, freshly retired and very tired principal climbs Mount Kilimanjaro with an organization that has raised over $1 Million for Ottawa organizations;
  • family decides – in collaboration with Christie Lake Kids Foundation (CLK) – to initiate Climb for Kids combining philanthropy with travel adventures and personal challenges;
  • over $67,000 is raised in two years;
  • 17 climbers ranging in age from 21 to 72 trek Apu Ausangate (Rainbow Mountains) in Peru reaching heights of 5200 metres; the next year, 14 trekkers trek 170 km around the Mont Blanc Massif, walking for 11 days through difficult terrain and heatwaves;
  • kids living across Ottawa, ranging in age from 8 – 16 years, benefit directly from the fundraising in sports and STEM programs;
  • local bands, businesses and individuals contribute time and money to Climb for Kids, including “Barry and the Blasters”;
  • in 2019, a growing group of new and old trekkers prepare for the climb to the Roof of Africa, July 2020.

The full story we wrote for CBC can be found here.

There are so many ways to start a story like this. From Paul’s perspective, he comes at this from a few angles. First, the climbing. “I am 61 years old and I fell in love with trekking in 2017 when I joined a group of 31 trekkers who climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for programs for local charitable organizations here in Ottawa. The climbing was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I was able to raise over $9,000 for local programs. “

The following year, my partner, Heather Swail, and I decided to develop our own program so we could channel money and support to Christie Lake Kids (CLK) – an organization here in Ottawa that supports children in low-income families across the city. CLK has been and continues to be an important part of our own family story.

We know Christie Lake Kids through many perspectives: all three of our own kids have worked at the camp; Our eldest, Liam, currently is the associate director of the organization; Heather and I have taught and worked with many of the CLK kids who attend recreation programs and summer camp. We know firsthand what a difference caring adults and skill-building programs make to kids and their families.

Poverty and bad luck are situational: they should not define and restrict opportunities for kids. Through truly transformative, recreation programs – e.g., hockey, music lessons, cooking, leadership programs, they are doing something unique – day by day, trying to break the cycle of poverty firmly entrenched here in Ottawa and empower children to change the direction of their lives.

Because Christie Lake Kids is really a social justice venture we are propelled to recruit people every year to bring them trekking. We help them with their training, we pick the routes and we put on a series of great fundraising parties throughout the year.

Our year I team at our first fundraiser at Fatboys in the Market

We know we are going in the right direction, every year we pick up new partners and friends who are helping this to become a really dynamic project here in Ottawa.

Our group members really make this special. We have some people who have been with us for three years now, others join us for a year but continue to support us and spread the news. Our group members support each other and learn to work together, not only to train but to raise money. In the first two years of Climb for Kids, we have raised close to $60,000. This year, we plan to raise an additional $40,000.

Here is a short video from Tara Howlett, one of our trekkers in Peru – Year I of Climb for Kids

Our climbers are great. The video above was taken by Tara Howlett, one of the trekkers who joined us in Year I. Tara took many more videos like this during the five-day high altitude trek in the Ausangate Range in Peru. Her journal became the basis for the film we created about the first year journey.

On the Year II trek around the Mont Blanc Massif, another one of our climbers, Jodie Beyer actually broke her foot on the fourth day of a twelve-day trek. She kept on trekking in incredibly hot and dry conditions and only realized she had broken her foot when she returned to Canada.

These treks are really hard. Our first trek in Peru was over 4800 m for five days. Many suffered through the cold and high altitude, but everybody made it. Last summer, we trekked over 170 km through France, Switzerland and Italy, camping the whole way. It was simply beautiful but many times it was also a real struggle.

A video
paul took at the top of the Col de Tricot – one of the hardest climbs we did on the TMB

So this year we are taking on Mt. Kilimanjaro. This will be another great challenge. Kilimanjaro is very hard for a regular trekker. It is a long seven to eight-day trek, all at high altitude. We will climb through five ecological zones. While we start in the rain forest, by summit day we are living in arctic tundra. The summit is at 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) and as we climb altitude sickness becomes a real concern for everyone.

Our group in 2017 – scrambling up the Barranco Wall

I know this will be a very challenging climb and we are hoping to bring lots of trekkers with us. This is not for everyone and the process of recruiting people to take on the trek is a very slow one – one that drives me a little crazy! Right now we have 13 climbers and we would love to eventually have 20 people on the journey. We want to make it to $40,000 this year so we can reach the $100,000 mark for Christie Lake Kids.

In all of this there is lots of adversity, but maybe this is just a reflection of the challenges many of the kids CLK supports face every day. There needs to be change, there needs to be hope – this is why we do this – Communities Move Mountains.

Paul McGuire, Heather Swail Ottawa, November 2019

Climb for Kids Year II TMB

Launching Climb for Kids Kilimanjaro for 2020

Great video short by Elia Saikaly of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Climb for Kids 2020 has launched!

We met on Friday to meet people interested in coming with us to Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is part of the process we need to go through to attract a group of people to make the commitment to train, fundraise then climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

We have such great support from Tony Perdomo of Exodus Travels and Monique Perras of Club Aventure here in Ottawa. It was a great presentation and we had lots of people out, many of them new to us. This is the key thing for us right now. If we want to really launch the Climb for Kids project into the future, we need to expand our base and attract people who are outside our own social networks.

So, now again we wait to see if the great people we met for the first time will sign on for the big adventure.

We are still waiting to raise the profile of this project beyond the scope of our social media posts. We can’t make it on local radio, no matter what we do. Planning a big fundraising trip to the roof of Africa just doesn’t make it. Even if it did, would it really make any difference? I don’t know, I think the personal contacts really make all the difference.

So we continue to try different things all the time. In two weeks, Heather and I will be heading off to a big gala to promote the trip. We are thinking of dressing up as climbers – trekking poles and gators included just to attract the attention of the crowd.

You never know who is out there looking for a new adventure, looking to help out in unique ways.

One thing I have been doing is putting out an Instagram post every few days. I am using the Flickr photos we took in 2017, the first time I climbed Kilimanjaro. I am not sure these are a good promotion, but it is fun to put these photos out there.

Soon we will have Tony’s presentation out there for people who couldn’t make it to the launch. I may also make another video short – really short – to add to the material we have out there.

Our shortest promotion video

The creation of new videos and a new ESRI Story Map are really creative ventures and there is something new to try almost every day. This is such a great story to tell and there are soo many ways to do this.

Then you get the phone call or email from someone who wants to join up. We are now in that zone where the new people who join up will come outside the groups we have already travelled with.

The big question here is, what will be the social media post, photo, email or video that brings in that new person? What word of mouth message will introduce us to someone else?

Our ESRI Story Map – a great way to collect all your media in one place.

So, we will keep posting and sharing and spreading the word. We will make it to a bigger group – hopefully 20 climbers!

Maybe this will be you??

Communities Move Mountains – looking for more climbers

 
I have kept almost all my promotion for Climb for Kids Year III on Facebook and Twitter, but on this Thanksgiving Weekend, I am sending out one note to long-term supporters via email and here on my blog.
 
We have 10 trekkers for July 2020 and we want to get 10 more. A group of 20 seems right for such a big climb. It also means that we could reach a new goal of $40,000 this year, making our total for the three years of Climb for Kids over $100,000.
 
Maybe this climb is not for everyone – physically and mentally it is a great challenge. However, word of mouth is still the most effective way to get new trekkers so we are hoping that the good news will reach the right people and we will pick up 10 more people. If you are reading this and happen to know someone who might be interested, I would like to ask you to share this note with them.
 
There are several things people can do if they might want to come with us:
 
  • First, share this post with your network
  • Second, if you live close to Ottawa, come to our launch on October 25th at the Senate Tavern (Bank Street) – Tony Perdomo, from Exodus Travels will be there to talk about the trip and all the details.
  • call Monique Perras, our travel agent at Club Aventure – 613-789-8000
  • email me (mcswa1@gmail.com) and I can answer any question someone might have about the trip.

 

We have a large and growing network of supporters who continue to help us raise money for Christie Lake Kids.

Somewhere out there is a trekker who will help us get to a climbing group of 20 people and who will push us over the $100,000 mark. Maybe your job is to pass this note on to them!

 
Communities truly Move Mountains, and we really want to make this our biggest year yet! You can be a big help.
 
Who is out there waiting to join us?
 

Tour de Mont Blanc – Day Eight for Climb for Kids

Our route after 8 days of trekking, we are now heading back to Chamonix

The map doesn’t do justice to the challenges of the trail. We have trekked around the Mont Blanc Massif for 8 days now and we have two challenging days ahead of us including a 1500 m ascent on our last day.

It is certainly hard to put into words what we are doing. Most of us have a good amount of experience trekking in the mountains and I think all of us would agree that this is the most challenging trek we have undertaken. Every day starts with a dramatic ascent followed by an equally trying descent into another beautiful valley.

The scenery is staggeringly beautiful. We are constantly introduced to another scene of mountains, rivers and valleys. To get these views you have to work hard. Our days start before 6 in the morning and the last two days we have been on the trail by 7:10 am to avoid the heat.

A few things for starters. The TMB is an international community on the move. Almost everyone greets you with bonjour, buongiorno, the occasional kon’nichiwa and hello. People from all over the world are here trekking for the day, the week or like us, the full two weeks.

There are lots of young people here. They are fit and fast and many of them are carrying their full packs on the journey. This is really encouraging to see. I am thinking that if more and more people, especially the young, start trekking through these beautiful mountains maybe we will start looking at the world not as a place to make a profit for the very few but as our precious home that needs to be preserved.

The days are long so there is lots of time to think. Every day we see evidence of global warming. As our guide John explains, the alpine glaciers are sick. They are eroding at a dramatic rate. Still, we have crazy politicians who aren’t convinced of the natural emergency we are facing with global warming. We are not spending enough time in the wilderness and we are not heeding the messages that are truly evident if we take the time to look and see.

Today is a rest day and we really need it. Yesterday we trekked for 11 hours and climbed 1000 m at the beginning of the day descending 1400 m to our camp. The group is in very good spirits, but our bones and muscles are sore. They will recover for tomorrow as we take on the two most challenging days of the trek.

Every day we get stronger. The ascents of the next two days don’t look too bad even though at the beginning of the TMB these would have been very difficult. Every day on the TMB your body gets stronger. The muscles adapt and the long hours harden the body and the mind.

Our bodies are the vehicle that are bringing us through these mountains. We are learning and growing on a journey that is transforming us. We chose the right type of trip to highlight Christie Lake Kids. Kids live lives of struggle and are transformed by Christie Lake programs and people. We honour their work as we saunter in the mountains.

 

Living Life Large and Climbing for Kids

We are getting closer to having a full group, I can feel it in my bones.

 
This week, the wonderful people at Merit Travel got us an extension for joining the Tour de Mont Blanc until the 21st of December. The wonderful Christie Lake Kids Board is also helping us make sure no one misses out on this trip.
 
So, if you are pondering taking this great adventure on, you have more time. If you need any more time than the 21st of December, we will make sure you get your spot. 
 
We simply can’t let dates and details get in the way of a grand adventure that is supporting so many children here in Ottawa.
 
All the details are still here and you can email me or call me (613-218-9615) if you need any more information.
 
 
This year is year II of a continuing community project to bring people together to help great kids through Christie Lake. Once you come with us once, you may find it hard not to continue climbing with us again.
 
Keeping fit and living life large is a full-time activity and we plan on raising much more money for CLK this year, more than the $29,000 we raised last year. And it really is all about living life large. Your body becomes the vehicle that can help you do great things. You meet wonderfully like-minded people and you become part of the support network that is changing the lives of kids.
That’s living life large. That is an important story, it’s compelling especially the adventures that we choose are really hard. You will be challenged physically and emotionally and maybe even spiritually.
 
So, no one should worry about the dates – it’s a big decision. Don’t worry about anything, just change the way you live your life. Take the great leap and join us now on this adventure – you will not regret this!
 
Isn’t life all about accepting challenges, meeting people and helping out? 

Can’t you see yourself in this picture?

Trekking Hand in Hand with Christie Lake Climb for Kids

Sometimes it is hard to sort out what to write after taking part in a monumental challenge. That is what the 5-day Ausangate trek was – a truly inspiring, challenging adventure that tested the physical and emotional limits of the 17 trekkers who took part in the journey.

The Ausangate region is cold in the Peruvian winter. We stayed at beautiful lodges where the temperatures plummeted when the sun went down. One lodge was at 4300m, the other three were above 4750m. We lived above 4700m for four days – that is higher than the summit camp for Mt. Kilimanjaro. We reached an altitude of 5150m – 200m short of Everest Base Camp.

The highest lodge in the world

So, there is lots to write about, a huge amount to absorb.

What comes to mind first is the people. Seventeen Canadians made the choice to trek for five days in this remote part of the Andes. Apart from our guides, cooks and shepherds, we seldom saw anyone else on the route. The high altitude, cold and tricky trekking conditions took a toll on everyone. Living continually at extreme high altitude was a new challenge for all of us.

Then there were our guides, Holgar, Mathias and Eric. These three guided us every day and in one case, into the night. They taught us about the mountains and told us stories about the apu, the mountain gods.

The cooks and cleaners travelled with us. The shepherds guided 20 llamas and horses with all our gear over the same steep mountain passes that we trekked. They reached our campsites well before us and set up the lodges for meals and restorative nights.

It is all about the people and this is where the true story lies. There were countless acts of generosity and kindness over the 5 days. You can’t trek through these mountains unless everyone works together and supports one another.

One incident, captured on video. One the longest day – 10 hours of trekking all above 4800m, we climbed the last hill to get a view of the Rainbow Mountain. It was later in the day and we had already summited one pass at 5000m. People were cold and tired.

The last hill was very steep and it fell off dramatically on all sides. Eric, one of our guides took the climbing poles of one of the trekkers and pulled her up the last hill. Several others were cold, tired out and gasping for air in the thin atmosphere.

We put one trekker ahead of the others and instructed the others to follow the same slow step pattern. The climbers ascended the hill in unison.

Take a look at the opening video for this piece. If you look closely, you can see the climbers following each other. You can see our guide Eric leading us up the hill. You can hear the laboured breathing and the wind whipping by.

This is people assuming a challenge and succeeding. This is what it looks like to trek in the Ausangate.

Christie Lake Climb for Kids Takes Off!


So Climb for Kids is going to happen!

After months of planning, talking and promoting we have the 16 people we need to allow this project to take off.

Last week four more people signed on to the expedition and the entire group met for the first time at our house. This is a great group of positive people who are excited to take part in a great adventure and raise money for an organization that is actively working to change the lives of children living in poverty here in Ottawa.

All of our participants have their Canada Helps pages up and running and all have pledged to raise at least $1000.00 for Christie Lake Kids. I think they will all surpass this goal and some members have already done so.

We have group fundraisers coming up, the first one will take place on March 23 at Fatboys in the Ottawa Market. The second one will be in May.

We begin to train as a group this week and this is something that we will continue to work on together right up until the summer. This will be a tough trek at high altitude. All participants will need to be in excellent physical shape.

We are now looking into corporate sponsorship. There is a really important story to tell here and we need to have the means to do this. This will not just be the story of climbing to Ausangate, it will be the story about how Christie Lake Kids is actively engaged in changing the lives of children every day.

Rainy day ball hockey

There will be lots to write about here. It is wonderful to be working with such a positive organization that is truly committed to bringing about change in the lives of young people.

We really hope that Climb for Kids attracts donors, supporters and sponsors. Now we totally expect that this will be the first year in a project that will continue to support social transformation in the years to come.

During our first gathering, several people talked about places they would like to trek to in the years to come.

We are going to Peru this year. Where do you want to go after that?

Believe in Something Bigger Than Yourself

I just listened to Joe Biden on CNN this morning. Really powerful interview. He is an intriguing person. A career politician and possibly a presidential candidate in 2020. Of course, he can get into the political fray just like any other politician, but there is something different about him and his recent political memoir, Promise Me Dad.

Grief changes you and he has had more than his fair share in life. In 1972, soon after being elected to the Senate, his wife and 13-month old daughter were killed in a car accident. In 2015, his oldest son, Beau, died of a brain tumour.

His interviews have a cut wretching honesty that we seldom hear. As a public figure, he is known as someone who reaches out to people who have gone through tragedy.  This is something he knows a great deal about.

There are some important lessons here. First, he talks a lot about his son. Beau was someone who was always positive. We hear how important this is all the time, but how many of us really live this? Beau’s relationship with his father was obviously something very special.  The title of the book comes from a conversation he had with his son where he urged his father to run for the presidency all at a time when he was dying from cancer.

Joe Biden with his sons Hunter left, and Beau, in the early 1970s.
Credit via Joe Biden

It seems to me that people who have gone through the strainer of personal grief or tragedy somehow can see life differently. There needs to be more to live for, especially when you are living with the reminder of your own story.

Today, Joe Biden responded to one of the interview questions with this line:

If you don’t believe in something bigger than yourself you will never be happy

Pretty powerful.
This helps to reflect on some of the interchanges I have had with people this past week.
It has been a big week. We have now started fundraising for our Climb for Kids! project and this is always a challenge. Asking people for money really opens you up in ways that can be uncomfortable. One person, for whom in the past we have done lots of volunteer work for asked not to receive any of my emails about the campaign because ‘it doesn’t involve me in any way’. Another person chose this week to call me out for a note I had sent him around the time of my father’s death. It wasn’t a note I am proud of, but I wasn’t really at my best.
I mention these interactions because the negative can have such a profound impact. Most times it would be much better to remain positive or just keep certain comments to one’s self. We all do better if we can get out of our own petty worlds and just believe in something bigger than ourselves.
So as the week went on I looked back on the comments of supporters from last year’s fundraising climb to Mt. Kilimanjaro. These notes are positive and so affirming and they celebrate the attempt to be something bigger. Sometimes when confronted with the negative it is so much better to seek out the positive.
I was really struck by Joe Biden’s interview today. I was taken by the way this man takes solace and strength from his family as I do. I was encouraged by his and his son’s determination to look to the positive.
A son’s affirmation of the father is a powerful message. I have that and those who can’t see beyond themselves will just have to take the back seat.

Halfway to the Rainbow Mountain Christie Lake Climb for Kids!

We are getting closer!

Today, we signed up our eighth climber, we are now halfway to getting our group of 16 climbers for our first Christie lake Climb for Kids!

This is something we have been working for. A team of 16 climbers, an eleven-day excursion to The Rainbow Mountains of Ausangate. An opportunity to raise funds for Christie Lake Kids and their transformative recreation programs.

This what Christie Lake Kids is all about and this is why our group will be climbing in Peru:

All kids deserve a safe, healthy childhood.

All kids deserve the opportunity to learn, to achieve, and to succeed.

Teaching skills of all kinds not only builds those particular skills; it also builds self-esteem, social skills, and other positive qualities.

Children from low-income families deserve the same recreational and skill-development opportunities as other children.

Caring for children and youth is not just a private issue; it is a collective responsibility.

from CLK Basic Principles

Now we are assembling the elements of our first expedition. Our fundraising page will be ready soon. Each climber will have their own individual page so they can solicit donations from friends and followers, the proceeds will go directly to Christie Lake programming.

We will be climbing as high as 5200 meters – this is a really challenging physical and mental endeavour. To make sure we are successful, we will be training as a group. We are planning to work with Canadian Strength Institute here in Ottawa to develop a group fitness plan. This is essential, for a climb as high as this, people will need to be in excellent shape.

We will plan a series of fundraising events this spring to bring people together who want to help support the climb. These events will be great ways to learn more about the climb and celebrate with this year’s group.

We are also working with Great Escape Outfitters to help us with our gear selection. To complete our team, Merit Travel is planning the trip to Peru and booking our flights. You can’t do a trip like this without great partners and we are certainly in good hands.

What’s next? We would like to fill up the group as soon as this Christmas. As soon as this is done we will be able to launch our group fundraising page. By the new year, we should be able to start training as a group.

This is a really exciting venture. We have great partners and we as a group will be starting something brand new here in Ottawa. I am very excited about the group we have now and its just going to get better!  The idea of taking part in a group adventure to raise funds for a very worthwhile organization is exciting and something worth training hard for.

In the months ahead there will be more updates as the group grows and trains together. You will all be invited to our fundraising events and all the members of our team will be introduced here on this blog.

So, if you are interested in taking part in this great adventure, you need to sign up soon. The way things are going the last eight spots will be going soon!

My Trek Through the First Day of School

As a principal, I really liked the first day of school. I got to see families and kids once again and I was always excited about all the great stuff that was planned for the new school year.

This year has been a little different. For the first time in 31 years, I am not in a school. I retired last December, so being away from school is not new to me. But, the first day of school is special.

So today, I needed to do something to mark this occasion. I was up almost at the same time – my wife is still teaching – and I drove her to school. I then got my trekking gear on and headed to the Gatineau, the beautiful hills just north of Ottawa.

I hike a good deal these days, especially the Wolf Trail in the Gatineau. Almost always I trek with friends or family, today I went by myself.

I wanted to have a day of quiet reflection, a day to note a new turn in my education career. I say a new turn because I am still an educator. I still work hard at connecting with other educators through Twitter, blogging and most recently, VoiceEd Radio.

I see myself now as an educator who is not tied to any school board or any official position. This is allowing me to write with more honesty about what I think about a whole host of education issues and topics. It allows me to take part in great projects like the Dream Mountains Kilimanjaro trek last year and this year a climb in Peru for Christie Lake Kids and hopefully a three-week trip to El Salvador with University of Ottawa students.

I think as educators we need to constantly evolve and grow. When we are fortunate enough to be able to retire, I think it is something to seriously consider. One can continue doing what they are doing, but I think with diminishing returns.

We always remain educators however, we just move to other stages.

Today was a wonderful day of hiking and reflection. I treasure the past and look forward to new vistas as an educator. The challenge remains the same  – to seek out the new opportunities to grow and contribute.

The summit of Wolf Trail – a great place for reflection