Below is an excerpt as K2K (Kids to Kilimanjaro) began in 2014.
Eagle’s Nest Center has begun plans for an experiential learning expedition for youth to Africa in 2017. The safari will begin in Kenya’s Rift Valley and will culminate in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
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:
“I really don't know where to start, but, I think with mom at work is good. My mom works at the VA in Madison where she works with a person named Tammy and she, would ask my mom something that would change my life. Tammy is a part of Eagles Nest Center and this group was going to take kids to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in about 6 months. She had asked my mom if any of her kids would like to go Africa, but when she looked into the money it would cost too much to spend so, she would turn Tammy down. Then about 4 months later Tammy would ask mom which one of her kids she was taking to Africa. My mom was at first confused as to what she meant and said she could still not pay for trip especially now that there was only two months left. Tammy told my mom that someone had dropped out and they had everything for his trip the only thing we would have to get was the warm clothes to climb the mountain. My mom would ask me that day if I would like to go to Africa and I said of course. I then had to meet the people taking me there. Bob and Judy Kohel were the nicest people I had ever met when we first met I was nervous as all one could be and they were so supportive and helpful. Two months pass and I am sitting in an Arby’s parking leaving for Africa with people I had known for only two months.
My first time in 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 six more hours. We then got on the plane going to Kenya where most of our time in Africa would spent. The movies were a lifesaver on the plane because that and sleep (are all there is to do) on the plane. Then we landed in Nairobi, Kenya and I was the most well-traveled person in my family. We were late due to the plane layover and spent the first day at the camp (sleeping) we were staying asleep till 12 O’clock. Africa is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen; the first week there was amazing. First we went to Hell Gates where we meet the (French) monkeys that stole our food out of our hand and saw the place where Mufasa died. I also went climbing for the first time (and) made it up 100 meters. Then it was 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. Me, Tammy and Chris (Bob’s son) made it all the way around and down. During this time, I was telling about all my ideas for comic books in my head. After that me and Chris were very close and He Became my best friend for the trip. Then we went shopping before heading to Mt. Kilimanjaro and this is where I become closer to another member of our group Marianne and she was very accepting of my form when we first met helping me with many things that I needed. The food here was also the most amazing; I get hungry everything was better than at home. We would end up leaving Three of our members at the base of the mountain who would not climb Judy, Marianne and Shawn. Now at the base of the mountain I look ahead at the week I will spend on it and hope for the best. Day one was pretty easy and we hiked for about 20 miles to get to the first camp where we would 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. Me and Chris stay back with his dad and ended up hiking for 14 hours. I was 15 and I broke down in the pain I was in. I could barely eat that night it lowered my morale a lot. The next day both Bob and Tyler would not be continuing with us due to the fact they had eaten some bad MREs and headed back down the mountain. Day three down to four 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 I was falling apart as was the other kid and I called my parent for the first time since I got to Africa asking if I should stop and go back down. They said they would not tell me to do anything just do what I think 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 was pretty easy and I got and new spring in my step and was not going to go to the bottom and would get to the top. Day Five we lost the other kid and it was three people going to the top of the mountain. This may have been the easiest day; we hit base camp and we had to sleep till midnight when we would start the hike to the top. We woke up and Me and Chris had to help Tammy get ready because she did not want go to the top, and Saying the Longonot Three would be the best one to get to the top she got up and we got moving. If Day two was hard this was just Evil, 8 Hours all up hill and every time I sat down I would need to be woken up. However, we did we made it to the top, I did it! Day six was 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 it was happy for everyone. Day Seven the bottom was an amazing thing to see and we got into a car after buying some tanzanite. When we got to 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 I was so happy! Then we went to the Masai Mara where we would spend three days looking at all the animals of Africa and meeting a tribe of Masai. Then we went back to the first camp we had been to and stayed the rest of the time there. On the day we left we went to the museum in Nairobi and found Lucy. Before the airport we went to a 4-star restaurant called Carnivores and had the most amazing meat.
Amsterdam was the next stop and we and Chris had to get on different plane it was a sad goodbye. Salt Lake City was a short and brief stop. Chicago! I was almost home! I was happy to see my mom, dad and uncle there to greet me and 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 to what 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 going 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.