First off – registration is still this coming Friday, November 1st at 8:00am sharp, as it always is – and it will sell out in around an hour! But – the 2014 climb is not at the end of February because the Hancock is undergoing renovations. The 2014 climb will be on April 13th!
I started participating in this crazy thing 12 years ago on a lark... I was volunteering at a health fair with Laura, telling people about organ donation - and about Kari, who I had recently learned about... She meant, and means everything to me. RHAMC - Respiratory Health Association - had a booth nearby and, when our duties were finished, I stopped by to tell RHAMC about the beautiful girl who saved my life - about breathing with her amazing lungs - and to thank them for what they do for people like me who struggle, or have struggled for breath.
There were two beautiful chicks manning the booth. You might imagine I had them in tears telling them about Kari. You imagine right. They told me about their stairclimb up the Hancock - that they had half-climb spots available - that I could climb 800 of the 1600 steps with them. I told them I'd think about it...
I went home. I took the stairs 10 floors to our condo... I emailed them back and said I was "in". She told me she might be able to get me into the full climb - 1,622 steps - 94 floors. I think I hesitated - but I thought this would be a neat way to honor Kari and her family and what they gave me, so I didn't hesitate long... I climbed in my first Hustle up the Hancock in 2003.
The next year, 25 people joined with me on my Kari's Klimbers team. 50 joined me the year after - and almost 100 every year since!
My third year, Kari's friends and volleyball teammates started coming out! For my 10th climb, Kari's mom, her sister, Godmother and cousin also came out! Can you imagine what it's like to have your life saved by someone so precious - then find yourself surrounded by her friends, volleyball teammates, her family, people who loved her dearly - who help you honor and remember Kari???
And - if that isn't enough - years after receiving her gift, the drugs I take to keep that gift gradually destroyed my already compromised kidneys, leaving me wondering whether I was at the end of my road, much less whether I would climb again... Kari wore #13 on her volleyball team. #7 was first among several people who asked to be tested to give me a kidney... In May, 2012, #7, Alex, gave me one of her kidneys. Neither of us missed a single climb!!! There is only one thing in the world that means more to me than Kari & Alex - I married her. And, Kari & Alex have given me many, many more years to be with Laura. (Here is a link to a story about what Alex did for me...)
Outside of my climbing activity - in transplant support groups I attend, on Facebook, through friends & acquaintances - I'm surrounded by people waiting for lungs, and waiting for kidneys, hearts & livers. I find it can be incredibly motivating for them to meet a goof who climbs hundred-story buildings with his new lungs, his new kidney and with his donor's friends. Many of them have eventually climbed with me after they've received what they need!!! I connect with people in transplant and organ procurement fields - and with donor families - who often only see the difficult, donation side of transplant... I love helping them understand what they've done for someone... Many of them end up climbing with me too!
I never did this to raise money - I did this to honor Kari... But, we've raised over $300,000.00 in the past 12 years to support the RHAMC and people with lung disease. I do this for all of them... I do this for people who struggle for air - for breath - like I once did... But mostly I do this for Kari - for who she was, for the life she led - and for the life she missed. I do this to honor the gift she's given me - which includes the gift of all of her friends... I do this to remember her - and so others will never forget her. I do this for Alex too, who supported me since her early years at the University of Northern Iowa, and eventually gave me one of her kidneys - and who now lets me tell others that I'm slowly being rebuilt into a girl from Iowa!
And I do this because of so many of you who have given me and my team so much support, and you motivate me to haul my three-sevenths-Iowa-girl-fanny up 1,622 steps every year!
If you’re considering joining us at the climb this year – here is my recruitment letter that I sent out a few weeks ago:
First – the big news! (No, I’m not hanging up my climbing shoes…)(Apparently not ever…) This year we will have a SPRING climb!!! The John Hancock Center is undergoing renovations in early 2014 – so, instead of climbing on the last Sunday in February, the 2014 climb will be on Sunday, April 13, 2014!!! Though the climb is postponed almost two months – registration will still be on Friday, November 1st at 8:00am sharp…
2014 will be my 12th climb – and the 11th time my Kari’s Klimbers team has taken the stairs 94 floors, 1,622 steps to the top of the John Hancock Center for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.
This past year has been quite good – no more 10” cuts up my belly – and Mabel is working awesomely (the kidney that Kari’s friend, Alex, gave me last year…) Not that any of that stopped me from climbing over the past two years – and there’s nothing on the horizon scheduled to put a damper on this coming climb.
It’s that time of year again… Registration for the 2014 climb is about four weeks away – on Friday, November 1st at 8:00am SHARP!!! Over the years, the Hustle has sold out in roughly an hour – be there on time! As I mentioned above – the climb is on Sunday, April 13, 2014 – not the usual February climb! Registration has gone up slightly to $150 this year.
My www.climbingforkari.org website needs a little updating – but the links should be going to the right places. I will register early on October 15th to create our “Kari’s Klimbers” team (and commit to raising $1000) so that our team will be available to join at 8:00am on Friday, November 1st and there are no delays in registration. DO NOT SIGN UP BEFORE 8:00AM ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1ST – if you do, you too will be committing to raise at least $1000. Registering at or after 8:00am on Friday, November 1st does not commit you to raising anything beyond your registration fee (though, I’m always grateful if you choose to do so!!!) Drop me a line if you’re interested in the Hustle this coming year – or just join my team on November 1st… I’ll send you a reminder with links to the registration page a few days before November 1st. Remember – the full climb sells out in about an hour.
Instructions for joining my team are on my www.climbingforkari.org website… A direct link to the instruction page is HERE… There is a step-by-step document on that page, as well as a link to retrieve your prior username and password that will speed your registration.
And finally – thank you so much for climbing with me in past years, if this is not your first climb… I spoke about quitting a few times in the recent past – I’ve had things I wanted to focus on and this takes a lot of thought and energy (so much of which falls on Laura’s back!!!) But – this is what I do… And Kari’s friends also let me know that quitting didn’t seem to be an option for me.
I do a fair amount of public speaking about organ donation and about Kari (and now Alex) – so much of what I talk about revolves around my participation in the Hustle – and meeting her friends through the Hustle – about the people who come out to support me at the Hustle – about YOU… This climb has become part of who I am and what I do – and YOU have helped make it what it is for me…
Some of you have climbed with me for eleven years… Some of you for several years. Almost every year I meet someone new who knew Kari, and they come out to remember her with me. And for some of you – well, I just met you, and this is crazy, but we’re climbing 94 floors soon – join us maybe?! Through these past twelve years we’ve raised around $300,000 together – that freaking blows my mind… How many times have you been part of a team that has raised that much funding??? I haven’t either. And this has happened because of so many people like you helping me. Thank you. And more special than the money will ever mean to me – you’ve helped me build a little platform to tell the world about Kari, and about Alex, and the gifts they’ve given – and you’ve helped me tell so many others about organ donation.
We’ve had so many recipients, and donor family members, and friends of donors on our team – and when I go places to speak about organ donation, people say, “You’re that guy who climbs 100 story buildings with your new lungs!!!) And so many of them know Kari’s smile, and her name – and that means everything to me. I would have never generated that much excitement alone – I would have never generated that much awareness without all of you.
I know that times are a little tough and cash is a little tight for many of us – and if you can’t make it this year, that’s OK – and thank you for the times you have made it. If you can make it – I’m honored to have you on my team.