Kilimanjaro 2016: 72 year old trains hard, fundraises harder

This septuagenarian's climb is dedicated to bringing laser technology to the Hospital for Sick Children

Rick, 72, joins this year’s Medcan Kilimanjaro expedition July 22 to 31, 2016.

Preparing for Kilimanjaro

Rick, an avid hiker and outdoors man, heard the call of the Kenyan mountain after reading about the upcoming trip with Medcan. Once committed to the climb, he stayed true to a three-day-a-week workout regime with a personal trainer who specializes in nutrition. Rick’s weekly workouts were amplified by spinning classes and a lot of walking – at home, in the country, down streets he’d never noticed before … everywhere. He says he’s in the best health of his life.

I’ve never done this kind of training before – even the track and field and rugby training of my youth doesn’t compare. Just recently I walked 100 kilometers with a weighted pack, and you know what, I feel wonderful. I’m also eating better than I have in five years and that has a huge impact. I sleep better, my energy level is great. People will comment on my skin. Maybe it’s because I’m haven’t had a drink in two months, or because I’m taking certain supplements? Whatever it is, this training provided an incredible focus and the change is remarkable.

Climbing with purpose

Once Rick’s physical preparation for the climb was in motion, he and his wife Gayle discussed how this adventure could be meaningful for their community. After reaching out to the Hospital for Sick Children to understand where support was most needed, Rick and Gayle made another commitment: to improve the technology used in brain surgery for children affected by brain cancer and epilepsy. At this time, any child in Canada requiring this type of surgery must have a part of their skull cut open in order for surgery, while an alternative exists. Laser technology allows surgeons to operate without as much exposure or infection risk, reduces hospital time from seven nights to one night, and is less traumatic for patients and their families.

“This is a huge part of the Kilimanjaro trip for me. I’m energized by it, lit up by the potential to change children’s lives. As it stands now, for every child who requires brain surgery, they must spend at least seven days in hospital, risking infection and experiencing a traumatic, and avoidable procedure. This technology is available at 15 centres in the U.S. but not in Canada. If we can get it to Sick Kids, these children will spend only one day in hospital, have less exposure to infection and ensure children and their families stay closer to home during a challenging time.”

Rick and Gayle’s campaign to raise $300,000 kicked off less than a month ago – and over 80% has been raised with $240,000 in donations.  The couple is matching every dollar donated to the campaign and are striving to meet their goal by July 22, the day of the trip’s departure.

Countdown to the challenge

While the fundraising goal is near, Rick prepares mentally for his mountain challenge.  He recognizes that a big climb like this requires balancing ambition with physical determination, which he admits is going to be tough as a self-professed Type A competitor.

“The way I see it is that this trip is 50% physical condition, and 50% altitude. The thing I can control is my physical condition. The altitude is being managed by the Medcan trip leaders, and they’ve chosen a good trip. There’s enough time to acclimatize to get the body organized to make the final assault on the final day. I want to be successful, there’s no doubt about that. But I’m going to take my pills and follow my doctor’s advice – I’ve been seeing a doctor at Medcan for years. I’ll just have to control myself from running up to the peak when I should be walking.”

Check back with or our Instagram account to follow up with Rick and other members of the Medcan Kilimanjaro 2016 trip. Click here to learn more about Rick and Gayle’s campaign for Sick Kids.

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