Scaling new heights for polio
Rotarian Finbar O'Sullivan celebrates reaching the summit. Photos courtesy of Gordon Savage
"You breathe and you breathe and you breathe. And then you take a step."
That’s how Finbar O’Sullivan, a member of the Rotary Club of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, describes climbing to the summit of 23,000-foot Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere. "It was physically brutal -- probably one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever done."
O'Sullivan, 56, was part of a team of seven climbers from Kelowna, including four Rotarians and a guide, who made the ascent in December, raising US$48,000 for Rotary’s US$200 Million Challenge. The feat was part of the Kelowna club’s Peaks for Polio project to raise awareness of the disease and funds to help eradicate it.
O'Sullivan came up with the idea for the project in 2007, after attending a Rotary club meeting as a guest. “The talk was on the PolioPlus program, my first lesson on the work Rotary does," says O'Sullivan, who has vivid memories of polio's effects on children he knew as a boy in England. "This was something I wanted to be part of. I wanted in."
He joined the Kelowna club that year. In planning the project, the team decided on Laurie Skreslet as its guide. Skreslet had climbed Mount Aconcagua 27 times and became the first Canadian to scale Mount Everest in 1982.
The project's goal is to make the climb an annual fundraiser until Rotary's challenge ends on 30 June 2012. The target is to have the next 20 participants each raise $50,000, for a combined total of $1 million.
O'Sullivan described the last 1,000 feet of the ascent as "brutal," up a 45-degree incline full of ice and snow, buffeted by winds that felt "just like a chainsaw cutting through you."
"Climbing this mountain was extremely difficult. But it is nothing compared with the difficulties faced by a child afflicted with polio," says team member and Kelowna Rotarian Gordon Savage. He invites Rotarians to learn more about the challenge and to assemble a team to climb a mountain closer to them as a fundraiser for polio.
Contact the project organizers at email@example.com, or go to www.peaksforpolio.com to learn more.
Learn more about Rotary's effort to eradicate polio:
Read more about polio and what you can do to help.
Watch a video about Rotary's progress in meeting the US$200 Million Challenge