Going to new heights for the Annual Programs Fund
District governors Tanya Woff and Karlis Graubics at the base camp of Mount Everest. Photo Courtesy of Tanya Wolff
Hiking to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2009 for Big Brothers Big Sisters gave District Governor Tanya Wolff a creative idea for raising money for The Rotary Foundation's Annual Programs Fund.
Wolff decided to organize a similar trip to the base camp of Mount Everest and challenge the Rotarians she met during her club visits in District 6330 (parts of Ontario, Canada, and Michigan, USA) to either join her or pony up donations for the Foundation.
On 17 April, Wolff; Karlis Graubics, governor of District 7600 (Virginia, USA); Eric Robinson, president–elect of the Rotary Club of Wiarton, Ontario; and his cousin Doug Robinson reached the base camp at 17,500 feet, having raised more than US$50,000 in pledges for the Annual Programs Fund through their website, www.everesttrek.org.
"It's an absolutely beautiful experience," recalls Graubics, 70, who underwent 11 weeks of endurance training to prepare. "At the same time, when I talk about the experience, I stay away from saying I had a ball. I did not have a ball. Nobody on that trip had a ball. It's something you determine to do, pace yourself, and do it."
Graubics, who says he is not a thrill-seeker, got on board after he and his wife hosted Wolff at their home so she could attend a training institute nearby. At first, Graubics wanted nothing to do with the idea.
"I said, 'You're 47. I am 70. You go, and tell me about it,'" he remembers. But days later, while listening to club presidents share their enthusiasm for projects at his district conference, "I thought to myself, 'You know, I haven't done anything really exciting this year.' I began thinking, 'Maybe this thing would be a good idea.'"
Pledges began coming in as soon as Graubics decided to consider the trek, and let the cat out of the bag. "My little comment started bringing in money. So I said, 'I think I better take a serious look at this.'"
For her part, Wolff describes herself as a wannabe runner. As a part-time employee of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sarnia-Lambton, she helped coordinate the hike up Mount Kilimanjaro, during which 23 of the 24 participants made it to the summit
"I figured a smaller group might be able to raise between $25,000 and $30,000 for the Foundation," she says. "Most of the members I challenged laughed at the idea of seeing themselves huff and puff to nearly 18,000 feet. But I was determined to go, even if I was going alone."
Wolff selected Adventure Alternative to organize the trip because of its work with nonprofits. She says setting up a website for pledges through GiftTool was also instrumental in the effort’s success.
Once the idea was cemented, Wolff contacted Ratna Man Sakya, governor of District 3292 (Nepal), who invited the team to take part in the district's conference. Wolff and Graubics altered their schedule to attend and toured projects that international Rotarians had helped sponsor.
"Being able to attend the district conference while we were there was a big bonus," says Graubics. "When you are in Kathmandu on the street, you see how poor the place is, and you want to help."
He adds that he and Wolff plan to work with the clubs in Kathmandu on projects their districts can sponsor together.
The trip itself has helped energize his district, Graubics says.
"This was so beyond anything that had ever been done in my district. It's like a breath of fresh air," he says. "I cannot be prouder of my district and the way they are really stepping up."
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