I have been in my HFOT home for roughly three years now. Over the last few years I got married, had our beautiful son, Beau, and have been able to overcome many of the physical and emotional barriers due to my time in service. Last year, I was selected to join the Chris Long Foundation’s Waterboy’s team. The Waterboys are a team of 12 people that get selected each year from across the country, including military Veterans, current and former NFL players, and clean water advocates. The purpose of Waterboys is to raise money to dig clean water wells in Tanzania, Africa. In addition to our fundraising efforts, we climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to represent the many miles that Tanzanian women have to travel every day to collect clean water for their families and community.
I engaged local businesses and organized fundraisers to raise over $23,000. That is enough to fund half of one well site that would supply 7,500 people clean water for 10 years. Collectively as a team we raised over $200,000. After arriving in Tanzania we were able to visit with the tribal communities and schools that would be impacted by our efforts. We got to see first hand the struggle of not having clean water, I was overwhelmed by the welcome we received. We joined in on ceremonial dances, kicked the soccer ball with the children, and listened to elders tell stories of their hunting and gathering communities.
During the trip the anxiety grew in the back of my mind, as I knew I would attempt to climb the nearly 20,000-foot Mount Kilimanjaro. I trained for the weeklong climb for six months, six days a week. I met regularly with my prosthetist to make sure my prosthetic was a good fit and I had all the supplies I would need on the mountain. I knew we would be sleeping in tents and from the starting point of the climb to the summit we would experience a wide range of climates. It rained, snowed and the temperatures ranged from a humid 85 degrees in the rainforest to negative 20 with a gust of wind at the summit. We had over 120 porters accompany us to help carry supplies up the mountain. It took four days to reach base camp. Base camp sat at 15,000 feet and this is where it became very difficult to breathe. From base camp our guide told us that we would depart at midnight to begin our ascent to the summit. The climb to the summit took seven hours and it was incredibly difficult, probably the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done. A few hours into the climb from base camp I got altitude sickness. My limb-savaged damaged leg was swollen to three times its normal size and the pain was intense. The guy next to me was in bad shape too. He was vomiting severe altitude sickness and just as he was about to turn around, we decided to become partners and walk side by side to keep each other motivated. After reaching the rim of the volcano and trekking another two hours around the glaciated top, we made it to the summit and touched the signed that read, “Congratulations. You are now at Uhuru Peak. World’s Highest Free Standing Mountain.”
The entire experience was life-changing, especially reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. I tried to leave everything negative from my past on top of that mountain. It was like I dumped out the things I didn’t need in my life and kept the things I did need. I wanted to use the experience of summiting as a way to build a better me for my family and my future. Reaching the summit gave me the courage to dig deep, to grow and let go of anything in my past that was holding me back.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and helping those in need gave me so much satisfaction, and helped me become a stronger person, but it’s organizations like Homes For Our Troops that provided me the support to make this happen. Our mortgage free HFOT home has given me the opportunity to not only rebuild my life after injury, but enabled me to go above and beyond and build a better life than I had before I was injured. Our home has helped me give back to my community, and to organizations like the Chris Long Foundation. And lastly, our home is a safe and fully accessible place to recover after physically demanding adventures such as climbing mountains. My wheelchair got a lot of use once I returned back home to my family. But I am happy to announce that I have fully recovered from the climb, and have returned home to my wonderful wife, Myra, our sweet baby boy, Beau, and our 190lb American Mastiff named Socrates.
I would like all the HFOT donors and supporters to know that their support really does change lives. We are grateful every day for what you have done to make that change happen.
Thank you Homes For Our Troops, donors, and supporters. We love you.
View Kevin’s Veterans page for more information.