I recently was a very small part of a very big adventure. I joined 4 cancer survivors and 11 advocates from the cancer community on Survivor Summit, a life-expanding quest to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. You can read all about the trip here.
Survivor Summit is an amazing organization that grew out of the desire of a few young men who wanted to make a difference. They prove that we all have the power to impact the world around us if we’re willing to take a chance and make a stand.
Mike King landed a job with one of the nation’s largest financial services companies after graduating from college. It was a great start to a promising career, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. For King, it wasn’t all about making money. He had a strong desire to give back and greatly admired successful non-profits that were truly making a difference in people’s lives. He wanted to help them make a difference, so he made a bold move and enrolled in the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “I decided to take a chance and pursue an MBA with an eye toward working in the non-profit world,” he recalls.
King is an avid triathlete and over the years became interested in helping The LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION especially after participating in the LIVESTRONG Challenge, a series of bike rides and one of the Foundation’s signature fundraising events. “I believed in and admired the Foundation and worked very hard to land a summer internship while I was at Wharton,” says King.
King spent a summer at the Foundation’s Austin,Texas-based headquarters and was so impressed with LIVESTRONG’s leadership and mission that he returned to Austin after graduation to work in a consulting role, prior to starting his full time position.
King would eventually take a management position with a large healthcare company, but his belief in the LIVESTRONG mission only grew. In October of 2011, Mike and his three brothers were in Austin for another LIVESTRONG Challenge — this time, in honor of their father who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Over a few beers at a rooftop bar, the idea of Survivor Summit Foundation was born.
“It was really just about connecting the dots,” King recalls. “While at Wharton, I traveled to Africa and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro as part of the Wharton Leadership Ventures program. It was a transformational experience and one that I thought would translate perfectly into a meaningful fundraising event for the LIVESTRONG Foundation.” His brothers agreed and so did LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman. The next call was to famed mountaineer Chris Warner who had led the Wharton trips to Mt. Kilimanjaro. “Chris was very enthusiastic. He immediately got it and was in,” King says. “We had our team and our mission. Survivor Summit Foundation was born.”
Of course, it took a great deal of work to put all of the pieces into place but the King brothers, their father Paul, and good friends Chris Callahan and Jim Digiulio, knew they had something very special: a life-changing adventure that would not only generate financial support for LIVESTRONG but inspire cancer survivors and their families worldwide.
“I’m not a crier,” says Warner. “But I’ve been on two of these Survivor Summit trips and both times, I’ve cried, and that means something deeply personal is happening for me. Of all the opportunities that come my way, I’d rather be in a situation where I’m forced to grow and the Survivor Summit trips definitely force me to grow. I will always make room on my schedule for Survivor Summit. It’s that powerful. It’s that important.”
Ulman, a three-time cancer survivor, participated in Survivor Summit 2014 and agrees. “Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was beyond what most of us thought was possible – and that’s what makes Survivor Summit so special and so important. We couldn’t be more grateful to Mike King and his team for creating such an amazing opportunity.”