Today Kevin Cherilla, co-founder of K2 Adventures, shares with us an amazing journey to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, inspired by a young man, a star athlete and cancer survivor, who is blind.
Kevin is on a mission to help others. Recently, he celebrated his own 10 th anniversary of climbing Mt. Everest, a goal he had set for himself when he was just 8 years old. Kevin talks about how it felt 10 years ago when he reached the summit and stood “on top of this world”, as he put it. At that moment he thought about his past and all the great people that have supported him. “If you listen to the naysayers all the time you will never survive in this industry”. Kevin believes in surrounding yourself with supportive and positive people.
K2 Adventure Travel focuses on helping those in need through their adventures. Their expertise and guidance also allows people with special challenges an opportunity to experience international expeditions.
Tim Connors came to Kevin and K2 Adventures for their help. He wanted to learn how to raise money for the people, and the organizations, who had helped him through his cancer battle and years of hospital visits. He also wanted to hire K2 Adventures to help him climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Tim had been a star athlete, who at just 15 was diagnosed with cancer, a tumor in his chest. Cancer cost him a lot. Tim has no gland function in his body, his muscles are atrophied, he has neuropathy of the feet and he lost his sight. Even with all these health challenges, Kevin recognized Tim’s intense drive to succeed. K2 Adventures decided to help.
Early on, Kevin Cherilla knew this climb would have to be about Tim. A team was formed to prepare for his climb. Tim’s father lost 60 pounds and his 60-year old Uncle, an internal medical doctor, agreed to be Tim’s medical support. Both men had to learn how to climb. Two of Tim’s best friends, age 24 were there for support, as always. This trip was all about Tim and this small team working together, overcoming the challenges.
Tim was determined. He felt a need to raise awareness for other adolescents who have gone through, or are going through, the same challenges he has been through.
Because Tim is blind, his team helped him experience the climb by describing what it looked like, felt like. The way the mountain looked, the clouds. The mist he was feeling. A buddy system was used to help Tim navigate the terrain more efficiently. When he was tired they rested. When he was exhausted and having problems with his legs, they encouraged him to keep going. Kevin explains that the final push to the top of Kilimanjaro was probably the roughest since Tim only has about 75% lung capacity, and it was hard to breathe.
Kevin says watching Tim, his dad and his uncle get to the top was overwhelming. Both father and son broke down. After a 7-year cancer battle, including 100 days in ICU where he had been given his last rites, Tim Connors proved his mental strength and drive while on that mountain – and just days after graduating summa cum laude from college.