Bradley McGarry, director of Asperger/Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) will begin the jouney to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro on February 5 in an effort to raise awareness for Autism.
McGarry said he hopes this journey to the summit of Kilimanjaro, the largest free-standing mountain in the world, will “raise awareness for the lack of vocational resources for qualified adults on the Autism Spectrum.”
McGarry added that he wants to bring attention to “the needs of these students [within the AIM program] and prompt businesses and universities across the country to help in providing quality employment opportunities for these well-qualified adults.”
McGarry has previously taken part in “Conquer the Canyon,” a campaign to support the National Angelman Syndrome Foundation with his son, Connor, who suffers from the disease, and had asked Mercyhurst students to join him to raise awareness for autism.
In order to promote the Career Path Program, McGarry went to Gene Taylor, co-founder of the Conquer the Canyon initiative, asking if they could “add a piece to Conquer the Canyon to raise autism awareness.”
Taylor already had the idea of climbing Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro. “Raise the Roof for Autism” came from a combination of their ideas.
In early December, McGarry encountered his first obstacle, a bruised rib, which put him out of training. He said his “biggest obstacle is preparing to hike 10 to 14 hours, and who has time in their normal day to do that?” McGarry also has five sons at home, adding to the difficulty of finding time to train.
He trains with the time he has, spending time wearing a mask to acclimate himself to the changes in oxygen level, in a process called “climatization.”
McGarry said he is funding half of the trip himself, and has taken to Facebook to help raise the remaining funds. Pfeffer, ALUSOURCE INC., Gander Mountain and Conquer the Canyon have all sponsored McGarry’s upcoming trip. Peek’n Peak has allowed McGarry to use their facilities for training.
“I am as prepared as I can be, but you don’t know until you get there,” McGarry said. He is aware that this climb will be harder than his previous ones, but he said he is ready to take on the “long-term, low-level suffering” he will endure on this 10-day adventure.
“When you do something like this and you accomplish it, it really redefines your definition of hard,” McGarry said.
“The cool thing about Mt. Kili is [that] it is like walking from the equator to the North Pole in a week,” he said.
He and Taylor are planning to take the Lemosho route up the mountain, which is designed to minimize time spent hiking, and is also the best route for climatization.
His friends keep asking him if he would consider doing Mt. Everest next. He did not rule out the prospect, but instead said “you never know what will come next.”