Special Events Stories & Photos

Path to a Cure: Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb and Unity Walks
January - March 2010

Climb Takes PH Awareness, Fundraising to New Heights
 

The Path to a Cure team, from left, Dr. Robert Frantz, Dr. Raymond Benza and Jessica Lazar, PA-C, at Mt. Kilimanjaro summitThe Path to a Cure team, from left, Dr. Robert Frantz,
Dr. Raymond Benza and Jessica Lazar, PA-C, at
Mt. Kilimanjaro summit.
What happens when you take three intrepid medical professionals and a community of passionate, dedicated patients and their supporters and put them on the Path to a Cure? In a word: magic!

That’s what happened when three medical professionals, inspired by the uphill battle that PH patients face, set out to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. The quest to summit Africa’s highest peak by Dr. Robert Frantz, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Dr. Ray Benza, who practices at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, and PA Jessica Lazar, a member of Dr. Benza’s team, ended in success when the three reached the summit on February 26 after a grueling seven-day climb.

Their purpose in undertaking this ambitious expedition was three-fold: to increase global PH awareness, raise funds for PHA’s research program and patient-serving programs, and experience first-hand the symptoms their patients endure.

Due to the mountain’s extreme altitude, oxygen levels were significantly lower than those at or near sea level. As such, the trio developed shortness of breath, fatigue and other PH symptoms during their ascent.

Actelion
Pharmaceuticals held a Unity Walk in South San Francisco, Calif. on
February 20Actelion Pharmaceuticals held a Unity Walk in South
San Francisco, Calif. on February 20.
The climbers, who dubbed themselves the “K-Team,” shared their progress throughout course of the trip by posting updates on their blog and calling in to PHA and news outlets via satellite phone. And they weren’t alone as they climbed the mountain. Many supporters did more than just follow their journey, they joined in. Hundreds of PH community members also embarked on the Path to a Cure as 17 in-person and virtual Unity Walks were held with PHA’s Support Group network and Generation Hope members rallying around the cause. As a result of the collective effort, including a generous $50,000 matching fund from Actelion Pharmaceuticals, the team’s original fundraising goal of $100,000 was surpassed, bringing in over $114,000.

Path to a Cure proved a success in every sense of the word. The climbers put a national spotlight on PH as their story garnered major media exposure and far-reaching support. Even through the most impressive moments, such as the climbers’ appearance on the Thomas Reuters’ sign in Times Square, the reality of the greater issue at hand never escaped the team. For Dr. Benza, who first had the idea for the climb, experiencing real-life PH symptoms affirmed the true purpose of the extreme trek. He said, “It gave us more of an appreciation of what our patients have to endure every day of their lives. It endeared them to us even more.”


The Twin Cities Generation Hope braved the cold on February 26, the same day of the climbers’ summit, to hold an outdoor Unity Walk
The Twin Cities Generation Hope braved the cold on February 26, the same day of the climbers’ summit, to hold an outdoor Unity Walk

       

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The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) awarded PHA the Abbey S. Meyers Leadership Award in 2012 for outstanding service to PHA members in advocacy, education and other key areas.