K2 Adventures Tests the Limits While Exploring the World

Summiting Mount Kilimanjaro is an amazing accomplishment for even the most skilled athlete. For international climb¬ing expert Kevin Cherilla and nonprofit organizer Kristen Sandquist, a trip to the top with eight blind climbers in 2009 proved to be more than a just another notch in their proverbial climbing harness. It be¬came an experience that altered their lives—and work—ever since.

Following that climb, and a visit to a local school for blind and albino children, Cherilla and Sandquist combined their skills and built what is now known as K2 Adventures Foundation, the goal of which is to care for individuals with disabilities and to provide them with resources and adaptive equipment that oftentimes insurance companies cannot or will not furnish.

“Disability is a very broad statement,” says Sandquist. “It makes it easy for us to help everybody.”
From medical necessities such as wheelchairs and catheters, to custom-made equipment that al¬lows disabled children and adults to explore the world beyond the confines of their wheelchairs, if it can be imagined, K2 will try to make it a reality.

From medical necessities such as wheelchairs and catheters, to custom-made equipment that al¬lows disabled children and adults to explore the world beyond the confines of their wheelchairs, if it can be imagined, K2 will try to make it a reality.

For 7-year-old Hunter Pochop of California, spina bifida kept him pursuing his one dream: surfing. While specialized weighted boards that won’t flip over are available, the cost of one was prohibitive to Hunter’s family. Thanks to K2, he now has his own surfboard—and specialized surf lessons with famed therapy dog Surf dog Ricochet.

Then there’s Kyle Maynard. The 28-year-old was born without arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from becoming an accomplished athlete. When Maynard announced that he planned to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro, he reached out to K2 for assistance in developing equipment that would allow him to tackle the mountain without the aid of prosthetics.

“Kyle was the biggest challenge for us because we had never worked with anyone without arms and legs, “ says Sandquist.

“When you’re dealing with someone who has no arms and no legs, and their goal is to get adaptive equipment, nobody wants to do it. There are custom fittings, but no insurance is going to cover it. It’s considered a luxury item.”

K2 teamed with Phoenix-based Orthotics Specialists to create carbon graphite caps, or “shoes,” compete with Vibram soles that fit on the ends of May¬nard’s arms and legs. Flagstaff manufacturer Kahtoola then designed crampons to fit the shoes. Both companies donated their time and equipment.

In January 2012, Maynard bear-crawled his way almost 20,000 feet to reach the summit, the first quadruple amputee to complete the climb. Later that year, he was awarded an ESPY for his feat. Today, Maynard is not only one of the faces of K2 Adventures Foundation, he’s a member of its board.

One of the ways the foundation raises money is by offering guided expeditions to such extreme destinations as Tanzania, Peru and Nepal through its partner company K2 Adventure Travel. In addition to customized treks, each trip includes a few days of community service at one of three orphanages to which K2 provides services, equipment, medical and dental care, and monetary aid.

“To be told over and over again that you can’t do something because you’re in a wheelchair, that you can’t do that because you’re paralyzed, that you can’t do that because there’s no equipment for you, eventually you’re going to believe that you can’t do anything,” she adds. “We’re here to show you that you can. We can fix it. We can make it work.”

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