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  • Climbing mountains in support of seniors

    Chestermere climber Kevin Papke

    Local resident Kevin Papke has set a goal to climb 50 mountains in his 50th year. (Photo by Wietse Bylsma.)

    CHESTERMERE – Local resident Kevin Papke has been a climbing and hiking enthusiast since he was 27-years-old.

    Since the late 90’s, he has climbed 250 individual summits and peaks, although he has climbed many of the same 250 more than once.

    Although he considers himself an avid climber, Papke is pushing himself to a whole new level, as he has set a goal for himself to climb 50 mountains in his 50th year.
    The 50 climbs will include everything from technical climbs, ski assent climbs, climbs of 11,000 or more feet, as well as scrambles ranging from easy to difficult.

    Kevin will have his father, Cec Papke, on his mind while completing the challenge, as he is doing it in his memory. Because his father suffered from dementia, Papke decided to also do the challenge in support of a worthy cause, which is why he approached the Bethany Care Foundation of Calgary.

    The Foundation works to raise funds, foster relationships and heighten the profile of the organization, the Bethany Care Society, in the community. The Bethany Care Society is one of the largest not–for–profit providers of health, housing and community services for seniors and persons with disabilities. Bethany provides service to more than 5,400 Albertans in over 100 communities, with around 800 of those individuals suffering from dementia.

    “I had always wanted to climb 50 peaks in my 50th year,” he said. “It always sounded like a cool thing to do, but I didn’t want it to just be for myself, I wanted to do it for charity.

    “My dad passed away from dementia about three years ago, and so I just wanted to do something on that side of things, because it seems like you never really hear about it.”

    Together Papke and the Bethany Care Foundation have officially created “Summits for Seniors.”

    Papke said, “A friend is involved with Bethany, so it just seemed like a nice marriage. They had the infrastructure to help me put this together, and they helped turn it from a dream to a reality.”

    Papke said that he doesn’t know anyone who has actually climbed 50 mountains in a single year, so it should be a pretty big challenge for him. For every climb he will bring a friend with him for safety and companionship, and once he returns he will post photos and a trip report on his blog and provide GPS tracking of the climb.

    He has set a goal of raising $100,000 for the year, but hopes to overachieve that number.

    Charlene Chrumka, executive director of the Bethany Care Foundation, said that having Kevin come forward and offer to support them was overwhelming.

    “We were ecstatic to hear that someone wanted to support us in the work that we do and help get the word out about people living with dementia and the effect it has,” she said. “It’s an extremely unique undertaking and I think it’s a great opportunity for us to connect with a donor who has a passion, with the community need.

    “Kevin is totally committed to his passion for climbing as well as his passion for his father. To be giving in that way is amazing and we were thrilled when he came forward.”

    She said, “We are so thankful that he has chosen us as his cause, and we are happy to be able to give a voice to the people who may otherwise may not have one.”

    Papke hopes to climb his first mountain this weekend, given that the weather and avalanche warnings allow for it. He said that he is looking forward to getting out there and seeing some new scenery while raising money for a good cause.

    “It’s going to be quite the year, but I’m excited to be able to give back and improve the lives of as many people as I can,” he said. “Dementia doesn’t get nearly enough attention, so hopefully this creates some awareness about how tough it is to go through, as well as how Bethany supports people and families that are dealing with it.”