ARVADA, Colo. -- How far are you willing to go to make a difference in someone's life?
For Credit Union Foundation of Colorado and Wyoming Executive Director Melia Heimbuck, Credit Union Association of Wyoming Director of Member Services Diana Stoick, and seven other credit union individuals, the answer was about 19,340 feet above sea level on top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Africa.
"Several of us in credit union land were talking for some time about going on an adventure to raise awareness about credit unions and as we kept talking about it Kilimanjaro came up and we knew we'd found our activity," said Heimbuck.
"Africa is such an amazing country and a great place to explore but there was also a lot of need there where we could do some good," added Stoick. "Mt. Kilimanjaro was also an adventure that was doable--it's one of the top seven summits of the world but it's not the toughest."
Living in Colorado, with 14,000 foot peaks, Heimbuck said was helpful but she still made a conscious effort to train and break in her hiking boots a year before going on the trip. Stoick, an avid cyclist, also trained and incorporated more trail running and hikes to be better prepared for the adventure.
"The enjoyment level during the trip really depended on how well conditioned you were going in so at the end of the day we were all tired but not exhausted with aching muscles," said Stoick.
In conjunction with the climb, which began on September 17, 2007, each of the nine climbers committed to personally raise at least $2,000 from friends, colleagues and corporate contributions from credit unions, credit union vendors and trade groups. Donations were collected on behalf of Operation Smile, OxFam America, Fabric of Life, the National Credit Union Foundation and a local elementary school outside of Arusha, the staging point of the expedition. In total over $102,000 was raised.
The climbers enlisted the services of experienced mountain and safari guide Kambona Ole Tirra Mollel of Africa VIP Travel, who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro more than 110 times. Along with the group were two other guides, a cook and 36 porters. The climb took a total of seven days.
"The most amazing part for me was every afternoon was unique we'd go through five different climate zones we'd start off in the rainforest, high heather then alpine desert," said Heimbuck. "It was amazing to see the different aspects of our planet on one trail."
"It was a great feeling of relief, joy and exhaustion to reach the summit and to have all of us there at the same time, sharing a once in a lifetime experience," added Stoick. "When you see the curvature of the earth you realize just how high we really were."