Climbing for Mental Health

by JAKE NORTON

February 2024
I'm somewhere over Minnesota, cruising at 33,000 feet, making my way (the long way perhaps with stops in Frankfurt and Addis Ababa) to Tanzania. This will be my 12th (I think, maybe 13th) climb of Kilimanjaro, and I couldn't be more excited. Sure, I always love my times on Kili: there's stunning scenery, fun terrain, […]

I'm somewhere over Minnesota, cruising at 33,000 feet, making my way (the long way perhaps with stops in Frankfurt and Addis Ababa) to Tanzania. This will be my 12th (I think, maybe 13th) climb of Kilimanjaro, and I couldn't be more excited.

Looking out at the Milky Way and the lights of rural Kenya from Mawenzi Tarn Camp on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

Sure, I always love my times on Kili: there's stunning scenery, fun terrain, and amazing people. I get to reconnect with old friends on the mountain, and visit once more a wonderful, welcoming, generous culture and country.

What makes this trip especially sweet, however, is that the six of us are not climbing simply to touch the Top of Africa. While that is a motivating aspect of the journey for sure, our real focus, our why if you will, transcends the summit, reaches beyond our personal ambitions and desires. On this climb, I have the good fortune to be leading a team from the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation.

Cameron was a bright, talented, vivacious teenager who, like so many, fought quiet battles with depression and anxiety. Weary of our society's stigma around mental health, and wanting teens to know they could Speak Up about their challenges, Cameron dreamed up the idea of helping teens and generating awareness about teen mental health through a 5K race series. Tragically, she was unable to see her dream fully through, as she passed away from an undiagnosed heart condition after finishing her own half-marathon race.

Her family and friends saw her dream through, and founded the CKG Foundation to help address the cause she was so passionate about: teen mental health.

How many of you deal with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues? I know I do.

How many of you feel our society makes it hard to talk about such things, especially for teens?

How many teens suffer in silence, soldiering on alone?

The CKG Foundation works to change that, helping teens speak out about their personal mental health challenges and giving them the tools to manage and move forward.

Sunrise near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Mt. Mawenzi rises behind.

So, this climb of Kilimanjaro will be about more than any one of us, about more than the summit and our personal ambitions. This climb will be about Cameron, about her dreams and the Foundation bringing them to reality, and about all those many teens and young adults fighting their battles with mental health, anxiety, depression.

Please follow along on our journey on the CKG Foundation website (and here and my social channels as well, as I'll share updates as much as possible). And, if you're so inclined, please make a donation to help us raise our goal of $19,341 for teen mental health.

Asante sana!

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