Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kids Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa

I spent some time last week with a pretty impressive 7th grader named Max. I got to know Max when he and his sister first started at our swim school several years ago. Max is in a new middle school this year but as a sixth grader he was president of the student body for his grade school. Remember, I said president of the entire school not just his class. Max and some of his friends and parents have been training and working out here in Phoenix for the last eight months in preparation for a climb of Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa this coming June.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania, Africa rises to a height of 19,330 feet! For those of us who have hiked in Arizona or even climbed some of the "Fourteeners" (mountains of 14,000 feet in height) in Colorado, 19,000++ feet is pretty high. You have to work over a period of days to get acclimated to the limited air at that elevation.

Why am I sharing Max's story here? There is a constant barrage of communication in the media about how we are raising a generation of kids who are glued to their TV, Game boy or Computer Screen. Here in Phoenix we are blessed with many local hiking trails and amazing parks. "Get off of the couch" as our sports camp director recommends. So my encouragement to parents is to find ways to get involved with your kids in activities outside of the house. Foster free play and don't worry if and when they fall or scape their knee. And if someone pushes someone else over, there is no need to rush in to protect them. Kids have a way of working it out among themselves.

OK, back to Max and his friends. I have to tell you the Rest of the Story as Paul Harvey says. Max is part of a team organized by the folks at the Foundation for Blind Children, who have put together a team of blind students and partnered them with sighted volunteers to climb Mt Kilimanjaro together. Here is their web site http://www.seekiliourway.org/. I am also including a link to the letter from Pam and Jim Stelzer outlining their family's reasons for being part of the "see kili our way" climb.
Click here to read their letter. If you have trouble with the link, copy and paste the following link into a new browser window:

This is not a fund raising letter (although if you elect to help these kids that would be great). It is an invitation to get up, get off the couch --- parents and kids --- and chase some kind of dream. Most people would look at Max and his friends and be thankful that you have your eyesight. I think Max is gonna look back over his life and feel sorry for people who were limited because they were sighted. I am gonna bet that Max is gonna come back from Africa will all kinds of impressions of life in Africa that we would miss. From the smells and sounds of the cities, the smell of the bush, to the feel of the winds, to the rhythm of language, and to the joy of trying to do something that is a really tough challenge.

If you want to help with their mission, check out their web site. If you want to learn from these kids, just get up and take a walk.

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