A big part of Kurt Kannemeyer’s job at St. Christopher’s in Dobbs Ferry is raising funds for and awareness of the work of the residential treatment center that serves special education students.
That the South African native takes his role as the institution’s director of development to heart may never be clearer than this month – the morning of Aug. 19 to be precise.
That’s when Kannemeyer will take the first steps on his weeklong attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, a challenge that will not only test his athletic and endurance skills, but also serve as both inspiration and a fundraising effort for his beloved students.
We first met Kannemeyer in the pages of our June “Open Road” issue, when he shared his own story as a way of background about this trip.
Words Kannemeyer wrote about the Kilimanjaro climb remain inspirational: “Many of our students are facing their own ‘mountains’ on a daily basis, and for them, life has never been easy. The greatest joy for me in climbing is being a role model and showing our kids that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. No mountain is unreachable, no dream is impossible.”
The excitement is building as the time to reaching his own dream is drawing ever closer, Kannemeyer says during a recent follow-up chat.
“I’m ecstatic,” he says. “Everything is coming along so amazingly well.”
His goals remain at the forefront.
Part of the mission of this trip is to raise funds for programming for the students in transitional cottages to ensure they receive the necessary life skills to become independent once they graduate.
It was back in 2009 that Kannemeyer took a group of students from the school to South Africa on an educational and humanitarian journey. The climb will also serve to fuel Kannemeyer’s vision to bring more students to South Africa, where new projects would include funding a perpetual garden and helping children living with HIV/AIDS.
Kannemeyer, who with three friends will follow the Rongai Route to the summit some 19,500 feet above sea level, has a picture of the mountain in his office to keep him motivated.
And that motivation has also translated to the gym, where his training continues to intensify.
“It’s excruciating, but that’s a good feeling,” he says.
And sometimes, it also elicits a few laughs. He tells of a recent day when he was so focused, he began to visualize the mountain while on the treadmill.
“I started talking to myself,” he says, not quite realizing he had started almost to chant, “For the kids. It’s for the kids. It’s for the kids.”
Next thing he knew, he shares with his trademark laugh, he was sheepishly smiling and explaining to the woman next to him that he was training for a student fundraiser.
Clearly, the students of St. Christopher’s are never far from his thoughts –which will no doubt be true as he sets off to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro in coming days.
To donate to Kannemeyer’s effort, visit 1canmakeadifference.myevent.com. To learn more about St. Christopher’s, visit sc1881.org.