Summit Goal #1: Kilimanjaro

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Update 7/13/19: Goal #1 complete! I made it to the Summit of Kilimanjaro, and together we raised $2,115.24 for The Willow Foundation.

(We’re still accepting donations if you’d like to help us get to the $2,500 goal!)

Stay tuned for a full climb recap coming soon.




I think we’ve all heard this before, but cancer sucks. We can all name someone close to us that has been affected by it, and recently, it hit a little too close to home for me when my father passed away on May 2, 2019 due to complications with bladder cancer. That’s why I’m dedicating my first climb, Mount Kilimanjaro, to the The Willow Foundation.

You can donate here now, or keep reading below to hear the rest of the story.

The Initiative

I decided to start Do Better late last year. I was backpacking in Denali National Park in Alaska when luck struck. Over a span of a few hours, the clouds parted, revealing just how spectacular Mount Denali is, a phenomenon that only happens an average of two days per month. Feeling its presence in the distance, I knew I had to see it up close, but wasn’t sure how or why. Then in November, my dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer the day before Thanksgiving. He whispered the news to me from his chair in front of the computer and my stomach dropped. I felt helpless. I knew we would fight it, but I also knew there was only so much I could do to help. So an idea was born. I would tackle some of the world’s tallest mountains to raise awareness and money for those who need it, starting with those diagnosed with cancer.

Kilimanjaro by the numbers:

Height (in feet): 19,341
Rank out of the seven summits (height): 4
Rank in the world (height): 16
Estimated time to summit: 6 days
Attempted climb timing: June 24 – July 6, 2019

The Stories

Let’s start with the ugly. My dad was a wonderful, loving man. He was the most important man in my life. But he smoked for more than 50 years. Smoking is the #1 cause of bladder cancer. While he lived with it relatively pain-free for six full months, complications from the bladder removal surgery ultimately took him away from us. Our hearts are broken not just for the loss of my father, but also because it can be so preventable.

(The last picture I ever took with my dad, just weeks before he went in for bladder removal surgery. He was proudly wearing the Kangol hat I bought him over a decade ago to hide his hair loss from the chemo. And boy could he rock that hat.)

Now for the good. This is Leah. Leah and I spent our entire childhoods sharing a softball field. She was one of the best shortstops and clean-up batters McLean Little League ever saw. On April 6, 2017 she was diagnosed with Metastatic (stage four) Breast Cancer, a terminal disease with a 1% rate of survival with only 22% of patients living 5 years post-diagnosis. Faced with an overwhelming amount of emotions and total lack of power, Leah did the most amazing thing; she chose to be happy right now.

Today Leah’s cancer can no longer be detected. While Metastatic Breast Cancer never goes away, she is living the life to the fullest with the clarity that can only come from being pushed to the limit. As a Registered Dietitian, she also did as much research as she could about how nutrition, mindset and exercise can play a role in cancer treatment and offset the side affects of chemotherapy. But what she learned is that there just isn’t enough research out there due to the lack of profitability of the outcomes. So she decided to change that by joining forces with her best friend to start The Willow Foundation (see below for more info or read Leah’s full story here).

The Merch

My dad may not have survived, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can to increase the quantity and quality of life for advanced stage cancer patients. I created the slogan “i love you to the mountains and back” in November 2018 when my dad was first diagnosed with bladder cancer the day before Thanksgiving. Join me in wearing this shirt to bring awareness to Do Better. All proceeds go to The Willow Foundation.

About The Willow Foundation:

The Willow Foundation provides Metastatic Cancer researchers interested in studying complementary therapies such as diet, exercise and mindset with funding to help increase the likelihood of remission, improve patient life expectancy and improve quality of life. Each year the Willow Foundation selects a specific research recipient to support, funding research seeking to prove exercise, nutrition, and mindset play a role in overall survivability and quality of life for late-stage cancer patients. Their goal this year is to fund two $10,000 research projects and your donation can help!


Choose from the donation options below or submit your own amount. Any and all donations are appreciated. You can simply donate, donate and purchase a Do Better “i love you to the mountains and back” tee shirt, or just buy a shirt to help bring awareness to the initiative. I will follow-up via email for your shirt size and address and provide an estimated delivery date. All proceeds go directly to The Willow Foundation.

* Notes:

– If you purchased a tee shirt, I’ll follow-up with you directly to get sizing and a shipping address.

– If donating a custom amount, please let me know if you would like $25 to go towards a tee shirt. I’ll then follow-up for sizing and a shipping address.

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