In the Fox Light:” An ongoing series on FoxFeed, in which we highlight someone who inspires us on their path toward a cure.
“It took me five seconds to say ‘yes’,” says Stephanie Paddock, of her decision to join the Team Fox Kilimanjaro Expedition. While she’d never done much climbing before, tackling a mountain was on her bucket list.
Stephanie, who is an associate director for Team Fox, ran the New York City marathon in 2011 to fundraise for The Michael J. Fox Foundation. She loves a physical challenge but admits she had no desire to run the marathon again. So when she learned of the Kilimanjaro climb, led by her colleague Mike Wenger, web product manager on MJFF’s digital strategies team, “signing up was a no brainer,” she says.
She also persuaded her brother, Michael, to join her on the trip. He’d supported her Team Fox efforts before, but never as a member. “I brought him to our Team Fox MVP awards dinner, and he was so inspired that he signed up, too,” she says. Their dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 11 years ago, so it’s especially meaningful that the siblings are teaming up to help find a cure.
“We conference-called our parents to tell them the news,” Stephanie says. “Mom cried and Dad was concerned. But they’re both very proud.” Together, the Paddocks hope to raise $20,000 for Parkinson’s research, just over $1 for each foot they will climb. Thanks to the Brin Wojcicki Challenge, every dollar they raise will be doubled.
Not only is Stephanie looking forward to making the six-day hike with her brother, she feels the training has already been a great thing for him—motivating him to quit smoking and become an avid runner. She’s also been running to train. Her biggest concern is how she’ll be affected by the altitude as they make their way up Africa’s tallest mountain. Along with Stephanie and Michael, the expedition includes Roger Long, who has PD, and Chad Vavra, who worked with MJFF to redesign the Foundation’s Web site.
Leading them to the summit is Mike Wenger, who is a guide for Discover Outdoors on the weekends, and loves rock climbing and ice climbing. Not long after joining the Foundation last year, Mike started thinking about how he could bring his worlds together. He knew other Team Fox members had climbed Kilimanjaro and realized he could start his own expedition. “What’s great about our team is that we all have two shared goals—reaching the summit and finding a cure for Parkinson’s,” he says.
As the guide, Mike’s primary goal is to ensure the 10-member team makes it safely up 19,341 feet. It will be a personal milestone for him, too, as he’s already summited Mount Kenya, Africa’s second-highest peak. The team is scheduled to leave base camp August 24.
He’s most excited to watch the sun rise on Uhuru Peak, the highest point on Kilimanjaro. The team will leave around midnight the night before to reach the top. They’ll arrive just in time to watch the sun rise. “I hear the sunrise is spectacular,” Mike says. “You’re climbing through the dark, with only your headlamp to guide you. So you don’t have a sense of where you are on the mountain. Then there’s the big reveal.”
“Running a marathon is such a singular experience,” Stephanie says. “My brother Michael and I get to take this journey together—all for our parents.”
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