In 2013, Ossining resident Kurt Kannemeyer almost completed the harrowing climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. After climbing 17,000 feet up the 19,341-foot tall Tanzanian mountain, he began to experience severe altitude sickness and had to turn back.
Now, he’s going again.
“I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro for our kids,” said Kannemeyer. “I’m climbing the mountain for every kid living with a disability.”
Raised in the South African city of Port Elizabeth, Kannemeyer experienced the inequality of racial segregation in his youth, and as a camp counselor in America he saw children dealing with adversity, disabilities, and challenges of their own. While working at St. Christopher’s School in Dobbs Ferry in 2009, Kannemeyer took a group of students on an educational trip to South Africa. After he returned, a friend suggested he attend a seminar about one woman’s three successful climbs up Mount Kilimanjaro. The story resonated with Kannemeyer. He couldn’t stop thinking about the children he worked with at St. Christopher’s, and the figurative mountains they climbed daily—the school helps teenagers with emotional, behavioral, and learning issues.
“I realized… I can be a role model for our kids, and I can really set an example and show them that no matter what life has dealt you, if you are able, and if you set goals that are obtainable, and if you work towards it, you can achieve it,” said Kannemeyer.
Kannemeyer acknowledges that he is not a professional climber, and his failure to best Mount Kilimanjaro on his first attempt still sticks with him. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he admits. “I did not expect the magnitude of the what the body would be able to adapt to.”
Ossining resident Kurt Kannemeyer is planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with some local support.
This time, Kannemeyer has prepared for the ascent with the support of Club Fit and the New Balance of Westchester. The climb is scheduled for between January and February, 2015.
You do not have to climb a mountain to help support the children of St. Christopher’s (unless you really want to). Anyone can get involved in Kannemeyer’s mission to serve and motivate children with disabilities by visiting St. Christopher’s website, located here.
Correction (12/23): An earlier version of this article indicated Kurt Kannemeyer was currently a teacher at St. Christopher’s. His current title there is Chief Development Officer.