Michael Akira West, the president of Westlife Distribution is less than a week away from the experience of a lifetime. Mike is set to travel to Africa to attempt a summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania, Africa. Mike is attempting the climb to raise funds for CAF, the Challenged Athlete's Foundation, an organization that, "recognizes the athletic greatness inherent in all people with physical challenges and supports their athletic endeavors by providing grants for training, competition and equipment needs," according to the group's website. To add to that, since being established in 1997, CAF has raised more than $37 million providing handcycles, sportschairs, and hi-tech prosthetic limbs; while offering hope, confidence, and self-esteem along the way. The crew climbing the highest point on the African continent at 19,340 feet will be made up of guides, Paul and Denise Fejtek; along with 20 other fit and philanthropic individuals, including Chad Crittenden, who is a CAF athlete and an avid triathlete and snowboarding competitor.
West has been raising donations for his climb for the past few months and is currently leading the group as the Top Fundraiser. In between running the show at the Westlife offices, and training as much as he can before he takes off, we sat down with Mike to go over his upcoming trip and the reason he decided to embark on such an adventure.
So, Mount Kilimanjaro, what made you want to do this trip?
There are two reasons really–one, because my lovely wife let me, and two, because I wanted to help out CAF and raise some funds for them. They are such a great group and have been an inspiration from the start. Also, the other people in the group going to Africa are all very motivated and I'm looking forward to this journey with all of them.
How did you become involved and why did you chose CAFrica?
There is an incredible couple named Paul and Denise Fejtek who have climbed all Seven Summits, whom I know from a long time ago, in fact, from working at Bear Mountain before I started 686. Paul is a challenged athlete but he's really super human; he has done everything from reaching the summit of Everest to completing the Ironman in Hawaii. They invited me to take this journey and to get involved with CAF. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be doing this at all. I've never done anything like this before and because I haven't fundraised for a cause like this prior, I wanted to make sure I threw myself into it. CAF is rad–they support athletes. They might be challenged, but every person they work with embodies the true definition of what it means to be an athlete.
What has been the training regimen?
Well, honestly speaking, my training hasn't been as up to par as it should have been. Running a business and trying to train makes my schedule more difficult than ever, but I'm an experienced backcountry snowboarder and consider myself in pretty good shape. However, I've never been above 12,500 feet and Kili is nearly 20,000 so I don't know how my body will react. I've done a few climbs recently at a higher elevation and my body took it a bit hard but adjusted enough for me to keep going. With a beast like Kili, you can be fit and in shape but still fail mentally when you reach that high of an elevation. I'm determined so we'll see how it goes. This is all for the athletes of CAF and the donors that sponsored me, so as long as I can keep that in mind, I'll be okay.
How much money have you raised so far and what are your goals?
I’m blown away how many people stepped up and donated. I felt awkward asking people for donations, but in the end, heads were really supportive. I set a goal for $10K by the end of August and I'm over $13,000 now, so I've been really happy with the whole process. If you still want to donate, you can click this link – every cent counts! http://cafrica.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=490376&supid=356410859
We wish you luck and I'm sure we'll get an update when you return! Any final words?
I’m just blessed to be able to take this journey for the right cause. I want to say thank you to everyone who donated and has supported me in this endeavor. I'm also not going to be totally alone on the trip, I've been able to wrangle a few of my industry friends to join me so a big shout-out to Thomas Lee from Process Agency www.processagency.com and Shane Kofoed from Beacon Audio www.beaconaudio.com. Now let's do this!