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We're Ascending for Alzheimer's
Our Team Story
Mark is a climber. I stay on level ground. Though when invited to join the trek up Mount Kilimanjaro in June 2018 to honor Mark’s sweetheart Rox and raise research dollars for Early Onset Alzheimer’s, I jumped on board. Mark’s journey with Rox was heart breaking and encouraging. To tackle a serious climb with Mark is a privilege and challenge.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro will be a challenge. Raising a dollar for every foot of the climb, 19,341 feet, will be a challenge. Yet every family that climbs the mountain of Early Onset Alzheimer’s faces a bigger challenge than I will face next June.
In addition to preparing for this epic climb, I’m married to Valerie, have four grown children and work on a variety of projects, boards, and consulting activities.
I have been friend of Mark de Roo for 20 years and was always inspired by the life I saw in Mark and Roxanne’s marriage.
Imagine the shock when I found out that Rox had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The list of trials that Mark, Rox, and the family went through is legendary. It was a terrible journey for all of them. I connected with Mark on a regular basis throughout the journey with Rox and saw firsthand the impact the disease had on him, Rox, and his family.
So how does the above translate to a shared climbing expedition on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa with Mark and a couple others? One of the take-aways from the journey Mark and his family went on with the disease is that you feel very helpless, sensing that there is very little that can be done proactively to combat or delay the disease’s ultimate result.
Mark had hoped to make this climb with Rox before she passed away in February 2018. That wasn’t able to happen because of the rapid progression of the disease. After Rox’s death, Mark came up with the idea to climb Kilimanjaro as a way to remember Rox and to do something proactively to help combat the disease.
Then he asked if I wanted to join him. Although I’ve never climbed a mountain, I said yes to Mark’s question because I want to support Mark, remember Rox, and help to make a difference for those who are toiling or will be struggling with Alzheimer’s in the future.
I’d like to encourage you to join us as together we will climb the mountain called Alzheimer’s. We do this in order to raise awareness and funding so that families, like Mark’s, will feel like they can more combat this hideous disease.
Let's talk about mountains.
Most mountains are physical things you can see. You can plan for the hike, buy the right type of shoes, have the right gear for the climb and you eventually (hopefully) will reach the summit. But life also has mountains. Ones you can't see, you can't plan on or train for. Seasons of life that seem to stretch high up into the clouds without any sight of the summit. These mountains are harder. But with both types of these mountains, you rarely high alone.
We are climbing Mt K. for Roxie and Mark. We are climbing for all those who are on this mountain climb of Alzheimer's. Each step and each meter higher will be a reminder that the fight to cure this disease will not win. The summit exists, a cure exists. And with support from generous, courageous people, we will reach that mountain peak together.
--Ben Spoelhof works in marketing at a high school in Chicagoland.
You may have heard the old African proverb "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." These words-of-wisdom have come to mean a lot to me over the years, not the least of which have been the last several years as I accompanied my wife, Roxanne, on her journey with early onset Alzheimer’s. There is no doubt that I was able to “go far” on this journey thanks to a host of friends and family who joined and supported me. There were the Hamilton’s who had me over every Tuesday night for chow. Mary Jo Kiefer took Rox on walks or an excursion every week. Nancy Hurley had devotions with her. Annette Vanden Heuvel did Rox’s hair and applied make-up, transforming her into the most beautiful woman on the planet. Even without that, Rox was still gorgeous. I will be forever grateful for these saints.
And now, I have the opportunity to “go far” with three studs who not only want to go far, but high. For seven days, my good friends, Steve and Ben Spoelhof and Doug Buma, will be my climbing buddies as we endeavor to climb all 19,321 feet of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. These are not just any friends. They are friends who walk and talk with purpose.
“Purpose” is born out of “mission.” Our collective mission is to make a huge dent in defeating, once-and-for-all, early onset Alzheimer’s, the disease that steals like none other. It stole from my Rox her ability to walk three miles twice a day, her sense of fashion, her ability to design and plant a colonial garden, and her ability to phone her kids and just wish them a good day and sign off with three words: I love you. The time to stop the stealing is now.
With your support, the money we raise will aid in research and ultimately, medicines and/or procedures that will result in healthy brains for all of us. All monies will be strictly devoted to tackling this disease; none of the donations will be used to underwrite our transportation, equipment, or the guides.
While you may not be able to climb with us, you can “go far” by supporting our efforts. Please submit your donations by June 15, 2019 which will be the first day of our ascent. Lord willing, we hope to summit on June 21, the longest day of the year. Your support, be those in donations and/or prayers, will help us go far—together.
--Mark de Roo
The Power of a Donation
The dollars you raise fuel the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer's Association.
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