Climbing Kilimanjaro


Eastern Division | CancerNYNJ Newsroom | News Updates | Contact Us

American Cancer Society volunteers and employees are moving mountains by climbing one


submit to reddit

Springfield, NJ – (April 2, 2012) Every year, hikers around the world climb Mt Kilimanjaro to raise funds for charity. For adventurers like American Cancer Society employees Deirdre McGuinness and Gene Derkack scaling new heights was unthinkable. But they knew with the help of their colleagues, friends, and family they could achieve what seemed impossible, and change the course of cancer.
The two embarked on the biggest hike of their lives, climbing more than 19,000 feet to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. They signed up for the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation team in collaboration with Journeys of Inspiration, an adventure for athletes and thrill-seekers who want to be a part of something bigger in the fight against cancer.
The Climb
Like most people, both climbers know someone who has faced the challenges that a cancer diagnosis can bring. For McGuinness it was her mom, she passed away 12 years ago from pancreatic cancer. The trip to Africa was around her mother’s birthday. “Despite losing my mom so many years ago, the wound of losing someone to this disease is so fresh”, said McGuinness. “This is something that I can actually do, it is something that will make a difference and I’m going to help make cancer a thing of the past.”

For Derkack it was about finding a way to fight alongside those facing the ultimate challenge. “Climbing the tallest free-standing mountain on earth to raise awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society is challenging but it can’t compare to how people with cancer fight with every last ounce of energy to defeat the disease”, said Derkack.

Kilimanjaro lies 205 miles south of the equator and stands on Tanzania’s northern border with Kenya. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is no easy feat, though the gradual ascent allows climbers to use trekking poles. There are challenges: no bathrooms, no showers, climate changes from hot and sunny to cold and snowy days and each climber must carry a backpack heavy with personal belongings. "By no means is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro a vacation," Derkack said. "It will present challenges to beginners, as well as, to seasoned endurance athletes.” “The scenery, landscape, and conversation provided a much needed diversion from the hours of climbing that spanned an 8 day period.”

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro tests your endurance, fitness and comfort levels. Both climbers said it’s physically and emotionally grueling. Their journey did not end after the 8-day climb the climbers had to get ready for even more extenuating circumstances. Two days after the climb they had to run a marathon.

McGuinness said, “It’s difficult; but when you succeed, there is a rush of excitement and a huge sense of accomplishment. It’s not just about getting to the top or running a marathon; it’s also about life’s lessons that you learn along the way. The trip is definitely about physical exertion; but it’s also a very spiritual trip in a lot of ways.” In the end, the epic task was well worth it, the pair raised over $11,000 for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation team and when you factor in the other participants on the DetermiNation team a total of $30,000 was raised. Every step they took and every mile they conquered will help save lives and create more birthdays.

You can make an important commitment to the fight against cancer by joining the American Cancer Society DetermiNation team, to learn more you can log onto or call 1-800-227-2345.

Additional Reading:
American Cancer Society DetermiNation
Gene & Dierdre's Mt Kilimanjaro Flickr Photo Gallery
Cancer Survivors and Care Givers Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
Cancer Survivors Climb Mountains


About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit

Find us on Facebook