Below is an excerpt as K2K (Kids to Kilimanjaro) began in 2014.
I made this trip in March 2013, including climbing Kilimanjaro with one of my sons and a friend of his, who are both geologists and experienced climbers. We reached the summit in the worst snowstorm on the mountain in 10 years... the ‘Snows of Kilimanjaro’ indeed!
For me, the 58-year-old Founder of Eagle’s Nest Center, this journey strengthened my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. I’d had major back, neck, and shoulder surgeries in 2010, 2011, and 2012 respectively, so this was a life-affirming challenge, as well as a shared adventure with my son doing something he loves (climbing). I benefited much more than I could have ever dreamed.
On the night we prepared to leave at midnight to summit Kilimanjaro by dawn, I was reflecting on the journey up to that point and how this experience would impact the lives of the young people Eagle’s Nest Center works with, the wounded and at-risk kids, the ones fallen into the cracks of life. We had a blizzard to face and a summit to make, so I parked that thought, knowing I would return to it.
This is what I wrote in 2013 when we decided to move forward and bring life to this project.
In January of 2017 we arrived in Nairobi Kenya and proceed to the Rift Valley where we made our first camp and Lake Naivasha. This was the beginning of a 3-week adventure for all involved. It was coined as “a trip down the rabbit hole” by one individual when we returned to the U.S. We met and exceeded our goals. The focal point, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, was, only but one summit experienced on our journey. It is almost impossible to put this into perspective. Three of the team in fact reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
We spent time exploring the Rift Valley as planned, climbed Mt. Longonot, and spent a day teaching at a local school.
From there we left for Tanzania for the climb on Mt. Kilimanjaro. Some of the group stayed at Kilemakyaro, a resort where since then we have developed a friendship with Joackim Minde who is the proprietor. He has become a supporter of our project and his guides lead climbs from his resort on Kilimanjaro and safari at Ngorongoro Crater from another resort location. If you ever go to Tanzania, you would not be disappointed contacting Joackim. He will even pick you up at the airport.
Anyway, the rest of the group spent time enjoying the culture of the local area while waiting for the climbers to return. When we returned to Kenya, we went on game safari at Masai Mara and while there we also spent a day at a traditional Masai village. When we finally returned to Nairobi; preparing to return to the U.S., we made our last stop at the Nairobi Museum. This was a last minute decision by the group to see Lucy, the oldest humanoid found on Earth to date, from the Rift Valley, the Cradle of Civilization. Like I said, almost too much to explain. This has been simply an overview.
I think what says the most is a letter one of the kids wrote. Eli who had been one of the group who made the summit of Kilimanjaro. This is his letter:
My first time on a plane was not as bad as I thought it would be. When we landed in Paris for a two-hour layover I had hoped to see the Eiffel tower. However, it was foggy and that fog would also delay our plane four more hours. We then got on the plane to Kenya, where most of our time in Africa would be spent. The movies were a lifesaver on the plane because watching movies and sleeping was all we could do on the plane.
We landed in Nairobi, Kenya and I was the most well-traveled person in my family. We were late due to the layover and spent the first day at the camp sleeping until noon. Africa is the most beautiful place I've ever seen; the first week there was amazing. First, we went to Hells Gate where we meet the "french" monkeys (as we called them) that stole food out of our hands and saw the place where Mufasa, from The Lion King, died. I also went climbing for the first time and made it up to 100 meters. Then it was on to Mt. Longonot, where it is said if you could climb all the way up and around the rim you would be able to climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Chris (Bob's son), Tammy and I made it all the way around and down the mountain. During this time, I was telling them about all the ideas I have for comic books in my head. After that, Chris and I were very close and he became my best friend for the trip.
We went shopping before heading to Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is where I become closer to another member of our group, Marianne, who was very accepting of me when we first met, helping me with many things that I needed. The food there was the most amazing. We wound up leaving three of our members at the base of the mountain who would not be making the climb: Judy, Marianne, and Shawn.
Now at the base of the mountain, I looked ahead at the week I would spend climbing and hoped for the best. Day one was pretty easy and we hiked for about 20 miles to get to the first camp, where we put up our tents, nothing much happened this day. Day two was not fun, 40 miles all uphill; by the end of it even Chris was tired. Chris and I ended up hiking for 14 hours. I was 15 and broke down in the pain. I could barely eat that night and it lowered my morale a lot. The next day both Bob and Tyler had to make the trip back down the mountain due to the fact they had eaten some bad MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Day three, down to four of us, Me, Tammy, Chris and one other. We needed to get used to the less dense air so we hiked high up then back down to a campsite a little higher up on the mountain. By the end of the day, I was falling apart as was the other teen and I called my parents for the first time since I got to Africa and asked if I should stop and go back down. They said that I should just do what I thought was right. Day four - the Breakfast Wall, named because of that fact that you climb it in the morning, and it was very steep. After the wall, the climb became pretty easy and I got a new spring in my step deciding to continue to the top. Day five, the other teen went back down the mountain, and it was three people going to the top of the mountain. This may have been the easiest day. We hit base camp and slept till midnight when we started the hike to the top. We did it! We made it to the top! I did it! Day six we started heading down the mountain to the last camp we would stop at. Saying goodbye to the guides was hard, they had taken us very far, but we were all happy. On day seven, the bottom was an amazing thing to see and we headed out to meet the rest of the group after buying some tanzanite.
When we arrived where the others were staying, we were jealous - it was a resort! The food was amazing and the beds were just divine. I had done it, we made it to the top and down and I was so happy! Then we went to the Masai Mara where we spent three days on safari observing the animals of Africa and visiting a Masai tribe. We then went back to the first camp we had stayed at and spent the rest of our time there. On the day we left, we went to the museum in Nairobi and saw Lucy, the oldest partial skeleton found. Before the airport, we went to a 4-star restaurant named Carnivores.
Amsterdam was the next stop and we had a two-hour layover. Salt Lake City was a short and brief stop, Chris got on a different plane, it was a sad goodbye. Chicago! I was almost home! I was happy to see my mom, dad, and uncle there to greet me. I cried when I said goodbye to the group who was my family for a month and still is. I got to my bed and fell asleep for the rest of the week. We met back up a month later to talk about what we did and what was next. Now I help them by doing volunteer work for them and talking and meeting them on occasion. My life is on a completely different path from it was before, and I feel better for it.
The vision I had in 2013 when I first climbed Kilimanjaro with my son, well, Eli is my personal reward for not giving up on the project when others thought I was crazy and this is why we are working toward going again with a new team in 2019.
With all said, I am asking for help with fundraising for this expedition: donations, sponsorship of an individual, etc.; we will also be looking for the necessary gear for this journey. Individuals will be responsible for passports, inoculations, and insurance for the trip. Because of the relationships we have developed in Kenya and Tanzania our original cost of $5,500 has been reduced to $3,500 per individual. Also we are running a concession stand at Lambeau Field for the Packer’s football season with all funds supporting this next journey. If you would like to support our project by helping out at Lambeau Field, please contact us. I send this voice out with my prayers and I hope you will sponsor or donate in some way. If you are interested please contact me at:email@example.com or call (608) 296-4023/ (715) 252-4477.
Robert J. Kohel
Eagle’s Nest Center, Inc.
If you would like to apply for Kids 2 Kililmanjaro II in 2019 please fill out this Application This Participation Agreement will need to be completed as well.