Student, alum summit Kilimanjaro in annual Prouty hike
Hiking high above the Tanzanian plains, Anna Condino Med ’14 and Wes Chapman ’77, Tu’81 pushed forward, leading a group bearing yellow ribbons inscribed with the names of cancer survivors and victims. They stepped toward the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak at 19,340 feet. In the months leading up to the trip, which lasted from Dec. 26 to Jan. 6, the group of 11 raised nearly $50,000 to benefit research at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

The trip was part of the fundraising series called the Prouty Mountaineering Program, conceived to honor cancer’s victims by hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro as well as local peaks. One element of raising money for the Center was the Audrey’s Ribbon Brigade campaign. For $100, a donor wishing to honor someone impacted by the disease can purchase a ribbon brought to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Sponsoring a ribbon that is sent to the top of Mt. Moosilauke or another New Hampshire 4,000-feet peak costs $50, while sending one on a training climbing trip is $25. “Cancer is ultimately a disease about people — those fighting the disease, those providing care and those who have passed on,” the campaign’s website says. “We conceived the Prouty Mountaineering Program with a very simple premise; honor those people.” The ribbons were presented to their donors upon the climbers’ return, and proved to be a potent symbol of support for cancer victims and survivors, Condino said. “At the end of the day, it really wasn’t about cancer,” Condino said. “It’s about people with cancer.” Chapman said he approached the Norris Cotton Cancer Center staff in 2012 with a proposal to incorporate a Mt. Kilimanjaro climb into their Prouty Challenge campaign, a series of events raising research funds through outdoor activities. “[The Mt. Kilimanjaro climb] seemed like a natural extension of the Prouty, which is always about supporting the fight of cancer and outdoor athletic activities,” Chapman said. “The two came together naturally.” In addition to the Ribbon Brigade campaign, each participant collected contributions from family friends and through social media, Condino said. In addition to the approximately $3,500 per person price, each participant must contribute a minimum donation to the Cancer Center of $5,000, or $7,800 for two family members climbing together, according to the campaign’s website. The price of the trip includes hotel accommodations, park fees, camping equipment and transportation within Tanzania. Rebecca Gray, senior program manager for Friends of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, said this year’s climbers collected about $20,000 more in donations than last year. Gray, in addition to facilitating the Prouty Challenge, is also a cancer survivor and participated in the Ribbon Brigade. “My husband gave me a ribbon to go to the top last year for our wedding anniversary,” she said. “It was very lovely.” Chapman said that three of this year’s ribbons were dedicated to members of his undergraduate class, all of whom he had known personally. It was the first time they brought up ribbons for classmates who had died from cancer. Gray said that the program has received positive feedback from cancer survivors, including letters from people whose names had been brought to the top. Funds raised from the climb will go to the Center, and will then be allocated to research development and outreach, Gray said. The Mt. Kilimanjaro trip is part of The Prouty Challenge’s “Reach for the Peaks” campaign, which also includes an upcoming hike of New Hampshire’s 48 peaks above 4,000 feet.
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