For my last “Why I Climb” before my trek, I feel like I could continue to talk about my grandmother, my uncle, my aunt, my college mentor, the entire Texas 4000 for Cancer organization, Penn State Dance MaraTHON, Cancer Support Community Central Texas, Go4The Goal Foundation, and any number of incredibly amazing stories that have inspired me to do all I can in the fight against cancer. Honestly, it was difficult for me to even pick one name to go on the team’s Honor Flag, which will fly on the summit and then in LIVESTRONG's headquarters after our climb.
In short, I’ve been motivated to go on this journey thanks to so many people. Today, though, I want to take the time to talk about a family that I haven’t met and yet, they’ve changed my life. I climb for men of the King family: Paul, Mike, Matt, Brian, and dad, Paul.
In July of 2011, dad Paul was diagnosed with cancer. Just two months later, he participated with his sons in the LIVESTRONG Challenge Philadelphia on his beach cruiser and underwent surgery the following month.
In October 2011, the King brothers entered the LIVESTRONG Challenge Austin with a totally new perspective, as well as a new idea: a trip to not only summit Mount Kilimanjaro, but to help people affected by cancer. Together, the family founded the Survivor Summit Foundation, a non-profit that aims to support survivors and cancer fighters who want to tackle challenges big and small. “We started Survivor Summit,” wrote Mike, “with the intention of offering survivors and their supporters the opportunity to take on new and different challenges. Since [its] inception, we’ve had LIVESTRONG supporters from 77 countries come to our website and learn about our mission and events. This response is astounding, and each visitor brings their own story.”
Those stories found their way into a much wider support network in December 2011, when Survivor Summit and LIVESTRONG officially partnered together to launch this incredible event.
That’s when my life changed. I saw a post on LIVESTRONG’s Facebook page about climbing Kilimanjaro to fight cancer. Having been personally affected by friends and family who had fought against this disease, I signed up. I wanted to do my part to help. A few days later, Mike called me and invited me to join the team. If I remember correctly, it took a little bit of time for him to convince me; I told him I wanted to be a part of the fight, but that I really wasn’t much of a mountaineer. I wanted to know how plausible it was for me to make it to the top. When he informed me that he had made it to the top of the mountain previously with UPenn’s Wharton School without ever having been on an indoor rock wall, I wholeheartedly agreed to participate.
And that’s how I got here, writing this blog, packing like a crazy person, and taking off for Tanzania on Saturday.
As for Paul, I understand he is currently doing well, with plenty of positive test results. Ironically enough, he emailed me a little while back to let me know how close we had been to crossing paths even without our involvement with Survivor Summit: his family has vacationed in Ocean City, New Jersey for more than 30 years. This little shore town happens to be about 25 minutes from where I grew up. Small world.
The funny thing is that life can take you a lot of different places for what seems like no reason at all: I had to move down to Austin to meet a family that was less than half an hour away from me for many years. As such, I’m now involved with an incredible organization and I’m about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to help others. I’m thankful for this opportunity and very proud that my teammates and I have raised over $200,000 to help cancer programs and services at LIVESTRONG, too.
Today, I climb for the King family. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I can’t wait to meet Mike and Brian in a few days, climb to the roof of Africa with them, and remember this experience for the rest of my life. Thanks so much for helping to put together the logistics of the climb and our massive fundraising endeavor, and I’ll see you guys soon!