On warm summer days, many people head to the beach to enjoy the sunshine. Others jump on their bikes or drive into Abbotsford for a leisurely stroll around Mill Lake Park.
Not Janet Ingram-Johnson. She climbs mountains — the 4,000-foot Mt. St. Benedict (east of Mission), the 4,700-foot Elk-Thurston peaks or the Three Brothers in Manning Park, to name a few. And not just on sunny days. On windy, rainy, cold and miserable days she can be seen heading out for the nearest vertical trail too.
The Aldergrove resident is in training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which at 19,341 feet is the tallest mountain in Africa. She is part of the 2013 Ascent for Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer Society’s annual fundraiser and awareness-building campaign that has seen about 150 people make the annual trek to Tanzania and climb the massif since 1998.
When asked how she got involved with the Alzheimer Society and why she chose this form of fundraising activity instead of something less strenuous, Ingram-Johnson said it all started when her friend, whose mother was dying of this devastating disease, asked her to sponsor her participation in the Alzheimer Society’s annual “Walk for Memories” event. As she learned more about the deadly disease that steals memories and personalities, Ingram-Johnson got more involved in the work of the Alzheimer Society, to the point where she established the Langley, Aldergrove and Abbotsford Walk for Memories in 2012 and has been an active volunteer for the organization ever since.
During her research into the society’s work, she discovered the Ascent for Alzheimer’s campaign and said when she saw that it takes place in Tanzania, a light suddenly went on. The opportunity to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for the Alzheimer Society was a gift she couldn’t turn down.
Born and raised in England, Ingram-Johnson had worked for Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Malawi, the neighbouring country to Tanzania. Her plan had been to visit Tanzania when her stint with the VSO was completed and, being physically fit, possibly climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately her dad passed away while she was in Africa and she had to return directly home.
Now, many years later, she is able to fulfill the dream of reaching that summit — to finish something she had started while helping raise awareness and funds for a very worthwhile cause.
Her further incentive to successfully reach the top is to sprinkle the ashes of another friend’s husband who recently died from dementia.
“I can’t pass up the opportunity to leave some of the earthly remains of a vibrant, meaningful life taken away by dementia,” Ingram-Johnson passionately explains.
In addition, she wants to reach the summit because soon after 6 a.m., when the sun comes up, she will be able to see 360 degrees around Africa.
“It should be breathtaking,” she says.
Ingram-Johnson said she is lucky that she is able to make the climb. Fortunate to be in good physical condition, she applied to the Alzheimer Society to join the team, participated in their interviews, passed the fitness tests and started her serious training regimen.
Now there is just one more hurdle to climb before she gets on the plane in September. Every member of the Ascent for Alzheimer team needs to have raised $10,000 in donations to the Alzheimer Society. Her fundraising efforts are well under way and she is close to her goal, but isn’t quite there yet.
On Sunday, August 11, friends are hosting a fundraising party at their west Aldergrove home. Among the array of attractions will be refreshments, live music and a silent auction. Admission is $20 and everyone is welcome to attend.
To join the supporters at the party, call Robin Bandenieks at 604-856-1984 or email email@example.com to reserve a spot.
To donate directly, visit www.ascentbc.ca and click on the Donate Now button.
For more information about the work of the Alzheimer Society, visit www.alzheimerbc.ca