May 6 was a night of community and of rallying the kind of human spirit that makes great things happen. That night, my buddy, Baylie, and I donned our “We Climb for Kids” Kilimanjaro tee shirts (along with our families and friends who did the same) and were guest bartenders at the Cottage in Mendon, N.Y., where we were raising money for our project and for Baylie’s daughter’s fund at Golisano Children's Hospital: the Jessica Stewart Olin Memorial Fund.
And they came
Our families were there. Ben and some of his friends were there. My other son, Ian, was there, too, and his baseball coaches even came. My dad’s best friend from 30+ years ago was there, too, whom I hadn’t seen in decades. Folks from Pack Paddle Ski (PPS) were also there, even ones I had never met before.
We made some new connections, too, and saw just how darn small this world is. The bartender, Jessica (if you go to the Cottage and she’s there, tip her well—she is awesome!), actually lived in Africa not long ago and was truly a kindred spirit. We learned that Dave McGrath, the musician that night (and now friend), also loves mountains. He used to be a guide on Mt. Rainier. He, too, is a kindred mountain and a musical spirit—Ben was stoked to jam with him on electric bass guitar for a few tunes.
To Africa, with love
We met Emily for the first time that night. She climbed Kilimanjaro a few years ago with PPS. And, for her honeymoon, she and her husband went to Mt. Everest Base Camp with PPS last year. Tommy was there, too. A good friend who always has a warm smile and great advice, he scaled Kili in 2013. Judy was also there, a friend to PPS (and now to us) whose daughter has spent time teaching in Africa.
Ties that bind
Nick Furfaro’s mom, Julie, and step dad, Ray, came, too. Nick died suddenly earlier this year at just 22 years old. He was a beloved member of the PPS community and although we didn’t know him, PPS and its loving and inspiring leader, Rick French, have been the bridge connecting our lives. This year, Ben will be the first recipient of Nick’s Fund—a scholarship Nick’s family established at PPS to honor their son and to support a young person who is raising money to explore the world and help make it a better place. We will carry Nick’s spirit in our hearts as we attempt to climb Kilimanjaro next year.
One thing has become incredibly clear from this project: connections are always there. It's just that sometimes we have to open up to see them.
Asante sana to everyone!