A Mountain of Memories
Jim Benjamin, EO Cleveland
A good friend recently shared a family engagement experience with me: When his two children began their college careers, he told them that when they graduated, they could travel to any destination for one week. There was only one stipulation— he would join them, and they would engage the world together. Over the years, his children changed their ideal week a number of times, and the family enjoyed making preliminary itineraries together. It was an incredible opportunity, and one that helped the family bond well before any adventures took place.
I really liked the concept, and with two kids of my own in high school, I decided to change it from college graduation to high school graduation. I also decided to make the trip something that I would like doing, as well as something that would be life-changing, challenging and confidence-building for my children before they head off to college. My oldest, Lily, graduated from high school in June— one week later we were on our way to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. When I first told her about our journey together, she wasn’t immediately thrilled, anticipating the hard work it would take to get in the best shape of her life. But over the next few months, she became more excited and worked hard to gain the necessary strength and endurance. While I never put pressure on her to make it to the top of the mountain, we both knew that it would be an amazing experience to accomplish the feat together.
As you can imagine, the trip was the bonding experience of a lifetime. Seven days on the mountain with no showers and long days of hiking were highlighted when we arrived at the summit at sunrise. The night was extremely cold, and we both knew that the other was enduring severe discomfort and exhaustion. However, there was never a thought that we wouldn’t make it, and there was zero complaining. When we finally arrived at the 19,700-foot summit, emotions of all kinds came rushing out. It was a special moment between father and daughter, and one that can’t be captured with words. I knew that my little girl was leaving the house soon, and that I may never get a chance to spend two weeks alone with her for the rest of my life. I was proud of her accomplishment, but more importantly of who she was becoming.
I haven’t planned the next trip with my son, who is a few years away from graduating high school, but I plan on leaving it to his imagination. I look forward to experiencing a similar moment of magic as we engage the world, grow our love for one another and conquer new challenges together.
Do it for the Story
Scott MacDonald, EO Calgary
The summer before seventh grade, I met my best friend, Brock. We only spent the one school year together, but we managed to stay in touch over the years. We had one of those friendships built on common interests. While my goals always seemed to revolve around business, Brock’s were based on adventure and travel. He had always wanted to be a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and when he was 29 years old, he realized that dream. Sadly, three weeks after his first posting, he was killed in the worst RCMP tragedy in more than a hundred years.
Brock never did anything half-way, and he was forever inviting me on his outdoor treks. One adventure I’ve always regretted missing was a seven-day mountain excursion. So, when EO Nepal hosted its EO Everest Summit 2013 and offered members the chance to see Mt. Everest up close, I jumped at the opportunity. I went not only for the experience, but in remembrance of Brock. From the beginning to the end, EO Nepal took amazing care of us as they shared their country with 225 EOers, spouses and guests. We watched the sunrise over the Himalayas; saw the Garden of Dreams; trekked the city of Bahktapur; and sampled exquisite spirits and food, all while experiencing an incredible sense of camaraderie.
The highlight of the event, however, was when EO Nepal rounded up every available helicopter in the country and took us on a high-flying tour of Mount Everest, the most majestic mountain I have ever seen. We ate breakfast, toasted champagne and regaled in the beauty. All the while, I carried an 8x10 framed photo of Brock by my side. I wanted him to experience this adventure with me. I wanted him to get as close as possible to realizing another one of his dreams.
A Little Effort Goes a Long Way
Kyle Elworthy, EO Charlotte
This June, I traveled to Tanzania on behalf of The Lunch Project (TLP), a non-profit that provides financial support for Tanzanian nutritional programs and educates U.S. children about global philanthropy. My company, Network Essentials, sponsored a lunch for a day, spending US$90 on food to feed 900 Tanzanian schoolchildren. In return, I received a dozen photos of the kids holding a “Thank you, Network Essentials!” sign after eating lunch. I was instantly hooked on the TLP cause.
I have young kids, and I can’t imagine them having to walk 10 kilometers to and from school every day, and on empty stomachs, no less. These Tanzanian children are amazing, considering the disadvantages they face. When the opportunity to visit them presented itself, I quickly signed up. I wanted to see first-hand how people with absolutely nothing can be so incredibly happy. I followed the “Boldly Go!” core value EO embraces, and it changed my life! It was an incredible experience visiting the school that TLP sponsors, seeing how the program is run, meeting the teachers, feeding the kids, building desks and interacting with the children.
All in all, this was a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Feeling the love and gratitude from so many kids, and witnessing the direct impact of our efforts, was priceless. Since my trip to Tanzania, we’ve sponsored monthly lunches, purchased material for one desk a year and started a “purpose-based” networking group to support the program’s efforts. I am now committed to making a difference in other people’s lives, having seen how a little effort can go a long way. I am now committed to engaging the world.