Peaking at 19,336 feet above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is the world's largest free standing mountain. On July 11 Kurt Wisenbaugh, Director of Game and Event Operations with the Jacksonville Jaguars, will begin his trek up this mammoth mountain for a purpose greater than proving to himself that he can make this journey.
Wisenbaugh, along with five other individuals from around the world, is taking part in the Make a Difference Kilimanjaro Fundraiser Climb. This goodwill venture will send 22 children from the Kilimanjaro Kids Care Orphanage in Himo, Tanzania to a respected academic school in Himo. Thus far Wisenbaugh has raised more than $5,500 for the cause.
Africa has been close to Wisenbaugh's heart since he was a child. He moved with his family to South Africa at the age of seven after his father, Thomas, took a job as a cardiologist at a public hospital there. The job was supposed to be for one year, but his father loved South Africa so much the family stayed for another eight years. While living in South Africa Wisenbaugh visited Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, but never Tanzania.
Since there is a $3,500 minimum to participate in the upcoming trek, Wisenbaugh created a website through which donations could be sent. He emailed everyone he knew asking for their support, and the response he received to this cause was extraordinary.
"I hit the $3,500 minimum within the first week," Wisenbaugh explained. "I received a lot from my family and friends but the majority of donations came from the Jaguars staff. I received an incredible response from my co-workers and I can't thank them enough.
The fundraiser climb provides each child with a uniform, English language classes, two meals a day and transportation from the orphanage to school. The time and money given to this fundraiser helps Make a Difference Now achieve its goal of educating orphaned children in Tanzania.
What drew Wisenbaugh to Make a Difference Now is the organization's goal of getting these orphans an education.
"Seventy-five percent of children in Tanzania that attend government schools don't make it past secondary school, so these children aren't getting an education," said Wisenbaugh. "The money raised goes towards putting the orphans into the best schools in the Kilimanjaro region so they get the highest possible quality of education."
Just recently the orphanage received running water, a commodity many people in developed nations take for granted. Before the well was installed in the backyard of the orphanage, the children had to walk almost an hour to get clean water.
From July 6 to 10, Wisenbaugh will get a chance to meet and work with the orphans for whom he has been raising money. He will volunteer at the orphanage by reading to the children and assisting them with their school work. He will also teach and play sports with them.
The seven-day climb will take place from July 11 to 17. While the terrain is not very steep, the hike up to the summit spans five long days. To minimize any altitude problems, the climbers will descend as quickly as possible in two days.
Wisenbaugh expects the trip to be an eye-opening experience. "Even though I've done some research on the living conditions, I think I'll still be shocked when I go over there and see the different lifestyle and all the things we take for granted."
Wisenbaugh says this first trip is just the start of his support of the Kilimanjaro Kids Care Orphanage.
"I'm already thinking about what I can do next year to raise more money, whether it's putting on events or just different ways that I can raise money because I don't want it to be a one-time thing and then forget about them. It'd be nice if I could do this every year to continue to help the orphans."
Visit www.gomadnow.org to learn more about Make a Difference Now.