Kate Troll knows that the difficulty of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro doesn't begin to approach the ordeal of a cancer patient, but she hopes to honor several friends who died of the disease when she tackles the mountain this fall.
Troll, 50, is attempting to raise $10,000 for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. This is the eighth year of the Seattle-based center's "Climb to Fight Breast Cancer." Troll will pay her way to Tanzania, but the center finances the climb. She has raised $3,200 so far from about 20 donors, and will have to make up the difference between the total amount of donations and the $10,000 goal.
One of the friends Troll hopes to honor in the August climb is Eric Eckholm, the first executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and a longtime journalist, who died of kidney cancer in the mid-1990s. Eckholm is remembered by friends as a creative force who touched many lives.
"He was one of the strongest creative energies I've ever encountered in my life. Getting to know him and be part of their struggle has made me a much better person, a stronger person," Troll said.
Laura Fleming, who met Troll through Eckholm, remembered him as a remarkable man.
"That man woke up with a good handful of completely original ideas every single day of his life. He could have easily kept an entire think tank execution team busy," Fleming said.
Troll, who works as a fisheries manager for the Marine Stewardship Council, lost another friend to breast cancer, and one to ovarian cancer as well.
"I feel like my friends showed a lot of courage in their final days of cancer. The least I can do is struggle up a mountain to raise money for the cause," she said.
And as far as the seven-day climb goes, Troll isn't worried. She trains by swimming and does a lot of hiking around Juneau. She climbed Denali 20 years ago, a 21-day trek which she said was much more difficult than what she will encounter in Africa. Her experience seemed different than that of the other seven climbers, most of whom are from Seattle, she said. Troll met a few of them at an interest meeting in Seattle, and while she was concerned about being able to raise $10,000, the others seemed much more worried about being able to complete the climb.
"The Fred Hutchinson cancer research center is very well-known in Seattle, so the other participants were intimidated by the mountain. For me, it was raising money," she said.
Troll said 86 cents of every dollar will go directly to research. The rest helps cover the nonprofit center's administrative costs.
She doesn't expect it will be difficult to raise $10,000 from donors, because so many people are touched by cancer.
Kilimanjaro has been on Troll's list for years. The 19,340-foot mountain includes five ecosystems, starting in the tropics and ending at a glacier that is so frequently measured it's become a climate change barometer of sorts.
"To be able to combine a personal desire with helping a good cause like this; it just seemed to be a really good combination for me," she said.
More information about donations is available at http://www.fhcrc.org/events/public/climb/how_to_sponsor.html.