Summit for Wishes - A Very Brief Recap

Layla Grace Marsh
11/26/2007 – 3/9/2010

Jambo! ("hello" in Swahili)

It all started with the story of a little girl who died too young... a story that reached out and touched my heart in ways I never would have anticipated. Inspired by her short life and compelled by the fact that my husband is a survivor of childhood leukemia, I decided that I had to DO SOMETHING, not knowing what that something would be.

A brief search had my mind spinning with possibilities – fundraising, personal challenges, etc. And one morning when I was reading the Gazette, my eyes fell upon a small ad, “Climb Kilimanjaro for Make-A-Wish Quebec and realize the power of a wish”. A couple weeks later I was signed up for what has turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.

In the 9 months leading up to the mountain adventure, I raised support for the cause. I had to bring together at least $8000 for the foundation and was hoping to raise a part of the expenses of the trip. The fundraising activities were as diverse as they were numerous; home-made pancake mix (over $1500), collaboration with a local school (over $3000), personal donations (over $3000), bake sales in the office (over $500), a yard sale ($1000), hot dogs at the local IGA ($1000), a ladies brunch (over $1000), hand-made key chains (over $500)...etc.

In the end I exceeded my objective with over $10 000 going to the Make-A-Wish foundation. I would be remiss not to mention that the monetary support was only one side of the equation. The moral support and encouragement, the family, friends and colleagues who rallied around me, cheered me on and then made me feel like a movie-star upon my return. Wow.

I was – and am – touched to the core of my being from their kind words, their generosity, their love and their prayers. Thank you is not enough. 

On January 4, 2011 – I said a tearful good-bye to my husband and two little girls – and joined 11 amazing people on a journey that I will never forget. Our group was composed of 4 Quebecers, 2 Ontarians and 6 Nova Scotians; ranging in age from 29 (me, the baby of the group) to 82; with interests and vocations as diverse as they could be – but with a couple of very important similarities: (1) our desire to help children who may never have the chance to make their own wishes come true because they suffer from an illness that threatens their life, and (2) our sense of adventure.

Summit for Wishes 2011
Top: Betty, Roy, Tim, Karen, Sonya, Jim, Maurice, Grant
Bottom: Stephanie, Andrea (me!)
Missing: Lloyd and Jan (they reached their own summits)
Tanzania, Moshi, Kilimanjaro... Uhuru peak... it isn’t an experience that can be described in few words and it’s something that you have to live yourself to fully appreciate and comprehend. I expected it to be beautiful, but I could never have imagined the ever-changing, majestic and breath-taking landscapes that I would be surrounded by day after day – nor the brilliant stars that I would see if I had to wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Sunrise from Shira Camp - Day 3 on the mountain
I expected it to be challenging, and was prepared for the physical feat that it would present – but could not have foreseen that I would compare those last 45 minutes to the summit to LABOUR (of all things!).

This would be me... after being at the summit for less than 5 minutes... needing oxygen in a bad way.
Apparently lack of oxygen gives me crazy headaches, severe nausea and some pretty nasty intestinal issues...
Enough said.
I went knowing that I wouldn’t see a shower or bath in 10 days and was prepared to be dirty and disgusting – I learned that a bird bath is really all you need and that my hair toughs very well without being washed for an extended period of time(!)

The bird bath - a bowl of hot water with some soap in the privacy of my tent

I went hoping to learn more about myself... and I came home with a fresh perspective and lessons that I will try to hold close to my heart – and to live – for a long time to come. Although there’s nothing very new in my biggest lesson – I know that it is imperative that I slow down and live in the moment – it may sound cliché, but it’s really not about the destination, it’s about the journey... or the climb!

You have to stop every once in a while - for essentials...
catch your breath... drink some water... enjoy the view!
And now that it's all said and done... and all I have are my memories... and my stories... I can say that I set out to help make a child`s wish come true - and a child's wish WILL come true. But I think I also realized a wish (or wishes) of my own. Wishes that I never knew I had.

Habari gani? Zuri sana!

(more to come... I don't think I'm quite done telling my story...)


1 more week to prepare

Hard to believe, but I only have one more week to prepare (my bags, my body, my mental state...) for my Kilimanjaro adventure.

After the time and effort that has gone in to raising the funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation (and not on my own - with a lot of support from many) and strengthening my body - this trip is going to take me much farther outside of my comfort zone than anything else in the last several months. 

I'm anxious. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I'm a little scared. And some days... I'm a lot scared.

I know I'm not the first to do something like this. Nor will I be the last. Kilimanjaro is big, but it's not that big. Raising over $16000 is big, but it's not that big. But as far as my personal life experiences go, this will be one of my biggest adventures yet.

And I'm humbled by the support of people around me.

I've already started receiving "best wishes" from many friends and colleagues who I won't be seeing again until it's all said and done. I've been prayed for at church. But it's not just "have a nice trip" kind of send offs. It's "I'm rooting for you", "we'll be thinking of you", and even "I admire what you're doing".

And I'm holding on to all these comments and all that support, so that I can pull it up if and when things get rough on that mountain.

I'll also be holding on to a few "tactile" objets to remind me of important reasons for taking on this project in the first place.

- a little pendant with emerald and diamond like gems that will remind me of my husband and girls (May and April birthstones).  Not that I'll need a reminder. I don't want to leave my family for 2 weeks. I do want to take this time for me and make them proud.  And even though my girls are very young, I hope that this is something that will speak to them as they get older.
- a picture of a special little boy - Justin Guestier - the son of one of Brandon's colleagues who was born barely a month before Layla. We nominated Justin for a wish and found out very recently that he was accepted. I'm very excited to see (so close) the power of a wish - for a child and their family.
- a "Kids in the park" tuque. This children's weeknight "club" raised $100 for the Wish Foundation over the fall.
- a picture of little Layla Grace... the little girl whose story started me down this road last year.

... and all my gear. Girl "pee" aid and all (!)