During her descent from the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Glen Cove native Donna Brady left something on its slopes. She didn’t know what it was, but, she said, in its absence, the 54-year-old was left with a profound sense of freedom.
Her training partner Diane Dobler struggled to describe the change she saw in her friend after her 6-day trek. “We all experience these ups and downs,” Dobler said, “and she just seems more level now. More at peace; more content; happy.”
Brady decided to embark on the journey on what some might consider, a whim. Some members of Shelter Rock Church in Manhasset — where Brady works as a business administrator — had been discussing possible humanitarian efforts that the church could embark on, and a pastor brought up World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. Shelter Rock organizers had done events like marathons or clean water drives with the organization, but they wanted to do something different — climb Kilimanjaro.
The trip was a coming together of worlds for Brady. For almost 10 years, she had sponsored a Kenyan child, now a teenager, through World Vision. In addition, she hadn’t really been mountain climbing since she was a teenager in Colorado, where she and her father would go hiking in the Rockies. Between her relationship with the charity, and with mountaineering, when Brady heard about the trip, she said, “I was just like, this is for me.”
Near the summit of the dormant Tanzanian volcano — at over 16,400 feet, the tallest peak on the African continent — Brady said, the landscape is barren, endless scree and gravel and rock, “like you’re on the moon.” Then, low vegetation, “a sage-green kind of color” begins to checker the ground. As she and her crew of 22 climbers continued down past the cloud line, it became foggy, “like you were somewhere in Ireland.” Eventually, they passed the tree line, and by the end of the day, she was immersed in a lush tropical scene, “waterfalls, and birds and monkeys and vines.”
After almost a week on the mountain, Brady said, “My body kind of did some weird things.” She described it as a reset, adding that other than the three toenails she lost, “It kind of rewound the clock a little bit.” She attributed the reset to the more “natural existence” of the mountain, being in tune with the cycles of day and night.
After the trek, Brady went to Kenya to meet the child she had been sponsoring for the past 9 years. She said that it was a bit awkward at first, given the language barrier, but ultimately, a powerful experience. In the same way that the experience was a positive interruption in her life, she looks at child sponsorship as a positive interruption in the lives of those who need it.
Brady will be telling her story at the First Presbyterian Church of Glen Cove — where she is an unofficial parishioner — on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 10 a.m. as part of the church’s worship service. Pastor Kally Elliot said that she was excited for her congregation to hear Brady’s story. On one level, she said, she hopes that people who “hear her passion for supporting these kids . . . would also say, ‘I have that same passion.’”
“It was an adventure for her,” Elliot said, “but it was an adventure with a cause.”