Three generations of the MacKay family have accomplished a rare feat after they climbed nearly 20,000 feet to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, and it was all for charity.
Dennis, Laura and Katie MacKay returned from their seven-day climb of Africa’s highest peak late last year as part of Summits of Hope, an organization that fundraises for B.C. Children’s Hospital.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Laura. “I don’t know how often three generations from one family have stood at the summit.”
The cause was close to the family’s heart.
Three years ago, Laura’s daughter Emma required open-heart surgery and was treated at the hospital.
“The care, compassion and support we received while she was in the hospital made it clear that this is a very special facility,” said Laura. “Emma will continue to require follow-up care provided by B.C. Children’s Hospital as will so many children from around the province.”
In preparation, they did several hikes around town, but they could not prepare themselves for the altitude change.
“For me, the altitude was hard, but I was thinking about my sister. I’m a nurse, so I see sick kids sometimes and that was something that helped motivate me,” said daughter Katie, who noted that roughly 60 support staff helped her through the journey.
“There were a couple of times where I wanted to sit down and cry, but our guide sensed that and gave me his hand and was like ‘come on, Katie’.”
They had to take medication for the altitude change as well.
During the last few days of the climb to the summit, they had to do rest steps — taking a breath and taking a step due to lack of oxygen.
“I remember thinking ‘I can’t do this. I hurt, I want to throw up’. But every step that I took I thought of Emma when she had open-heart surgery. How did she feel the day of her surgery and the days of recovery?” said Laura.
“Every step it was like, if she can do it, I can. That’s what kept me going, thinking about her and all those kids who battle non-stop at B.C. Children’s Hospital.”
They also raised more than $33,000, which will be donated to the hospital.
“We want to thank the individuals and businesses who helped us raise the money for the B.C. Children’s Hospital because to me, that’s what it’s all about,” said Laura, noting that a large majority of children who travel to the hospital for care come from rural B.C.