NAPLES — Adventure runs deep in Glen Schwesinger’s blood. Since he was a young man, he sought ways of going beyond travels in his own backyard. And when he discovered a way to scale Mount Kilimanjaro recently, he decided to do so in honor of the Naples-based Shelter for Abused Women and Children.
On Feb. 25, 2013, Schwesinger will be making the trek up Kilimanjaro for eight days to endure his own personal transformation, and he will be carrying a heavy backpack that will honor the hopes and dreams of thousands of men, women and children in the community receiving services from the local shelter.
But Schwesinger will not be alone during the grueling journey up the mountain, which will take more than 5,500 steps, on one of the tallest free-standing mountains in the world. Schwesinger, who serves as a shelter trustee, will be joined by Gordon Kellam, a close friend and a member of the shelter’s Next Generation Committee, who was motivated to join Schwesinger on his journey.
“We’re very glad to have the younger generation to be part of the Shelter for Abused Women. We want to make it a memorable event for our younger generation, too,” said J.D. Loden, chairman of the shelter’s Next Generation Committee.
In preparation the two train on exercise equipment, including StairMasters, each day to ready themselves for the climb up the mountain.
“What is different about this climb, compared to others, is speed is your enemy. Altitude sickness is a major risk factor for us, especially when we are training here at sea level,” explained Kellam of how they will be regularly checking to ensure they do not ascend too quickly.
Beginning their adventure at Southwest Florida International Airport, the two friends and community leaders will fly to Africa and then rent most of the packs and gear to begin their journey up the mountain. There will also be porters on hand to assist with traversing rough terrain, and warning Schwesinger and Kellam of weather conditions existing in the five different levels of their ascent.
Heading up the mountain, which boasts 19.336 feet, they say there will be a lot of conversation about the impact of abuse on women, men and children in Collier County.
“We’re going to discuss the Shelter’s mission with every step, and we’re going to bend some ears along the way,” Schwesinger said. “We’re going to an abused women and children’s shelter while we’re there, and we’re going to bring small gifts or a donation to them.”
With the shelter’s many local offerings such as a 60-bed emergency shelter located in East Naples designed to help victims of domestic violence (along with a crisis hotline open 24 hours a day), community outreach programs, an elder abuse hotline, legal assistance with support of attorneys in the community and ongoing community outreach programs, the two local hikers will have a lot to talk about with fellow hikers on the mountain.
Before they pack and prepare for their February adventure, where they will be taking a banner with sponsors names to photograph at the top of Kilimanjaro, Schwesinger and Kellam were guests of honor at Cafe Lurcat on Sept. 27 for a fundraising event. All proceeds raised went to the local shelter the duo are climbing for.
The costs for travel to and from Mount Kilamanjaro will be fully covered by the climbers, and Richard D’Amico, the owner of Cafe Lurcat, donated his upstairs dining and balcony area to host the kick-off event which featured live music and a sampling of the restaurant’s delicacies.
In the coming months Shwesinger and Kellam will continue to prepare to scale the longest free-standing mountain in the world.
“When you are going to challenge yourself, make it challenging for yourself,” Kellam said with a smile