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Climbing to new heights against tetanus

Oct 21, 2013
Hagen climbed Mount Baker for The Eliminate Project

Vaughn Hagen is a 21-year Kiwanian who pushed himself to new heights to help mothers and babies around the world. Deciding to make the life-saving climb up a mountain he often admires from his home window proved to be a challenging and rewarding learning experience.

Although Hagen, a past president of the Bellingham Noon, Washington, Kiwanis Club, has considered scaling Mount Baker for several years, a session on The Eliminate Project at the Kiwanis International convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, inspired him to do it as a means to fundraise for a cause that would help babies reach their first birthday. “I decided to take on the challenge for my 59th birthday,” he says. 

“When you watch the videos of the babies dying from tetanus, it breaks your heart,” Vaughn reflects. “And it takes less than US$2 to vaccinate one person. … The results are tangible. We have already eliminated tetanus in more than 20 countries and counting.”

Although he is a seasoned hiker, Hagen had never attempted climbing a mountain. Just south of the Canadian-American border and 10,778 feet (3,285 meters) tall, icy Mount Baker is the third highest mountain in the state of Washington.

“I started training in June using a mountaineering training course,” he says. “My weekly routine — as I built up to it — was biking about 30 miles (48.3 km), running two to three miles (3.2 to 4.8 km), running up and down 500 to 1,000 stairs, push-ups, crunches, squats and planks. Then on the weekend I would do a 7 to 12 mile (11.3 to 19.3 km) hike.”

He set a fundraising goal that’s as high as the mountain itself: US$10,800 — just over one dollar for each foot of the ten hour climb.

The blog posts he wrote reflecting on his three days of climbing reveal his positive attitude, stamina and marvel at the experience. Climbing with two Brits, a fellow American from Texas and a guide, the group reached 6,800 feet (2,073 feet) in on the first day before stopping to camp.

“The hike to base camp was long and arduous over tough terrain,” Vaughn writes. “The scenery was gorgeous but with a 50-pound (22.7 kg) pack, it was a real test of my stamina and strength. Four hours into our hike and with about a mile to go, I was wearing down. My legs were good, but the higher we climbed the more out of breath I got. The last couple of hundred yards was slow going mainly because it was packed snow and ice.”

It was not just the sights that were breathtaking. Once at camp, Vaughn realized that his lungs would not allow him to reach the mountain’s peak. “I had climbed higher than I had ever climbed, and had given it my best effort. This year was not the year,” he writes.

“I didn’t make the summit as I’d hoped, but I realized through all of this that the journey was the most important part,” he shares. “The people I met, the experiences I had, and the wonderful support and encouragement I received along the way.”

His heart for service, however, is stronger. So far, he’s raised more than US$8,200 for Kiwanis International’s Global Campaign for Children.

“One of the reasons I did it was to bring awareness to our club members of what The Eliminate Project was all about. Hopefully this will inspire others in our club to find ways to do other fundraisers, no matter how small they may be,” he says. — Courtney Meyer

Have a Kiwanis story to share? Send it to shareyourstory@kiwanis.org for consideration.

Has your Kiwanis club fundraised for The Eliminate Project? Tell us how in the comment section below.