Background of Climb

 Background of Climb

Mt. Kilimanjaro is located in northern Tanzania.  It stands at 19,336 feet. It is the highest peak on the African continent.  It also is the tallest free standing mountain in the world.  It has been described as, “rising in isolation from the surrounding coastal scrubland”.  By all accounts, it is an amazing sight.

 Phase I – Howard wants to climb Kilimanjaro 

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has been a dream of Howard’s since before he met his wife, Anne. It just was never quite the right time to climb before now.  However, with the boys growing older and Howard too, it became clear it is time to climb.

Phase II – Will the Boys Climb?

Howard believes that people who participate in activities together develop a different and often stronger relationship than they would otherwise have developed.  When he started thinking again about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, he decided the only way he would climb it would be with his boys, Ben and Max.  At first this sounded a little crazy, since they were only 11 and 13, respectively.  He even received some push back from each of them as they also thought it sounded a little crazy.  Anne, also had her own concerns.  She was just a little concerned about Howard taking the boys halfway across the world to climb a mountain that is almost four miles high, but after discussing it with Howard, both agreed that it was a great opportunity for the boys.  Max and Ben quickly agreed that this was an amazing opportunity for them.  Anne and Howard believe that the climb will continue to build on the qualities that they have been teaching their boys.  What a great way to reinforce the idea that hard work, discipline and good preparation are the keys to success.

After Anne and Howard agreed that the climb was a-go, Howard then contacted one of his old gymnastics coaches, Seymour Rifkind.  Few people in Howard’s life have drawn the respect that Howard has for Seymour.  Seymour, early in Howard’s life, helped teach him the value of discipline, hard work, and that there are no substitutes or short cuts for being properly prepared.  These lessons helped Howard as a young man develop into a very successful gymnast, whose career culminated in college with him being co-captain of the NCAA Division I Championship team.

Seymour, having climbed Kilimanjaro before, was an easy person for Howard to contact to discuss the climb, and to obtain an opinion on whether or not it was reasonable and feasible to have the boys climb with him.  Seymour’s initial response was, “Yes, it is reasonable, BUT…”.  The “but” was a concern that knowing that these were Jewish kids from the North Shore, he did not know if they had the necessary skills and wherewithal to be exposed to the elements and altitude.  Once Howard explained that Max and Ben both were Boy Scouts, camped frequently and camped in cold weather too, this concern fell by the wayside.  Seymour agreed that they could and should make the climb and then gave Howard some great advice.  DO IT.  DO IT NOW.  DO IT WITH YOUR BOYS.  DO NOT WAIT !!!

With that question answered, we all agreed that it was reasonable for the boys to climb.  So, Max, Ben and Howard are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  This is how it all started.

Phase III – A Fourth Climber

Next, who else might be a good candidate to round out the climbing threesome?  One person came to mind.  He was a clear choice.  A young man, with strong morals and character, who is physically able to do the climb and also who has strong connections to Israel, the Jewish community and of course, Ben, Max and Howard.  So, rounding out the climbing group will more likely than not be James Milin.  James happens to be Anne’s little cousin (little only as to age, as he stands at 6 feet 4 inches tall).  A twenty-four year old graduate student at Washington University, James intends to climb with us.  The only reason James is a “maybe” or on “standby” for the climb is that he is graduating with a masters in social work this May, and is currently seeking to enter into the full time work force.  In the event that a future employer is not interested in allowing him the time off for this climb, he will not be able to participate.  Otherwise, he is good to go.

Phase IV – MDA

The next phase of how this started was Howard began to discuss the climb with friends.  The idea arose quickly that we should use this climb to raise money for a cause which we all feel is important to us, to our families and to Israel.  Nate Weiss helped Howard realize that the climb could be bigger than just the climb itself.  We could do something big and important.

Any place that needs to buy armored or bulletproof ambulances in order to provide emergency medical care is doing work that is so vital and important.  Above all else, MDA saves lives without any inquiry into a person’s religion, political background or race.  We saw the great work that MDA does in Israel about a year ago.  Max participated in and raised funds to outfit an emergency bag called the “Red Bag of Courage” for MDA.  He raised a significant amount of money for this program and then had an opportunity to visit an MDA station while in Israel, to see its direct impact.  Max took it to heart when Anne and Howard told him that he could not solicit friends and family for raising these funds.  They had told him that he needed to do something to raise this money.  He took this direction and came up with ways for a then twelve year old boy to raise money for his project.  He shoveled snow, he sold giant pumpkins, and generally educated friends and neighbors about his project, about MDA and what he was trying to accomplish.  Max was extremely successful with his project, and further instilled in Howard the idea that this could be done on a grander and broader scale.

So, this is how the idea was hatched.  Climb Kilimanjaro.  Continue to teach our children that they can set goals, work hard for a year and attain significant accomplishments.  This is twofold.  The physical aspect of climbing, and the second part of our goals to educate people about the great work of MDA and to raise as much money for it as possible.  Neither of these are going to be easy.  Both will require significant time and effort.  But the lessons learned and the impact which we can make are huge.

Choosing to raise money for MDA was an easy decision for both Nate and Howard because of the important role it plays in Israel and around the world.  So this is how Magen David Adom became the cause for which we are raising money.

So, we all got together for dinner at Tabuon in Skokie and decided that we had an opportunity to use the climb as a reason to talk about MDA, to educate people, and to raise as much money as possible for it.  While at dinner, we were approached by a woman from New York who apologized for listening, but said she had to stop by our table and wish us the best of  luck, as she could tell we are doing something “BIG”.  The goal of Operation Climb – MDA is simple and two-fold.  Raise awareness of MDA in our communities and among friends, colleagues, neighbors and those who otherwise do not know about MDA; and two, raise as much money as possible to buy ambulances, equipment, blood bank equipment and generally to save lives in Israel.

Phase V – Return to Kilimanjaro 

Two years later Max is now 17 and Ben is now 14.  The Zavell’s original goals remain a priority.  First, they are excited to have a second opportunity to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro this December. Second and more importantly, the are excited to continue to raise money on behalf of MDA.  They have raised a significant amount of money to date, but seek to raise enough funds to purchase a fully equipped ambulance to be delivered in Israel, at a time when it is needed more than ever.