Monday April 1, 2013

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- A local high school student will be climbing one of the world’s tallest peaks this summer while supporting a good cause.

Kassidy Hitt, a senior at Hoosick Falls Central School, said she plans to scale Mount Kilimanjaro with a group organized by the CancerClimber Association, a nonprofit that supports camps, patient visits, and adventure programs for cancer survivors.

The 18-year-old will be the youngest among the group of a half-dozen or so climbers and is currently fundraising for the trip. Proceeds raised go toward the nonprofit and locals in Tanzania. A benefit Texas Hold’em Tournament at the Polish Hall in Hoosick Falls was held this past Saturday.

"I’m extremely excited ... I’m looking forward to the challenge," Hitt said by telephone Friday. With a goal in mind of $5,000, Hitt said most of that money would go toward helping somebody, either local Tanzanians or cancer survivors. "I don’t want people to think of it as a personal vacation. ... It’s not like that at all."

Hitt said she became inspired after meeting Sean Swarner last fall, the original "Cancer Climber" who was diagnosed with two unrelated forms of cancer at age 14 and given only days to live but defied the odds and has gone on to climb the world’s seven summits. With one lung, Swarner was the first cancer survivor to crest Mount Everest.

Founded in 2001, the organization’s mission is to "help those touched by cancer by focusing on living an active, healthy lifestyle." About half of the group climbing Africa’s highest peak this June will be cancer survivors according to Hitt. Their costs to participate are defrayed through the nonprofit.

The Mount Kilimanjaro climb is an annual expedition. According to the nonprofit reporting service GuideStar, the CancerClimber Association reported $45,909 in revenue in 2006, the most recent year on file. Grants mostly for expeditions allowing survivors to climb comprised $33,500 of expenses that year.

Hitt said she had high expectations but not much prior climbing experience. At the moment, she said she’s been training an hour and a half to two hours a day locally, including on hikes with her mother, Pamm Powers, the "event coordinator and the source of my motivation."

For more information about the fundraising efforts or the trip, contact Powers at 518-810-2256 or Hitt at 518-242-0880.

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