Alpine Challenges for Charity

Alpine Challenges for Charity

Stoops, Kira
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Twenty-year-old Bozeman climber Michael Spencer wants to save the world. But it's also prime climbing season this winter in Ecuador. With a little soul-searching, Spencer dreamed up a way to do both. Combining his deepest passions—mountaineering, traveling, and philanthropy—he founded Alpine Challenges For Charity (ACC) this past spring. The not-for-profit organization operates the mountaineering version of a fund-raising walkathon, trading white sneakers for crampons and taking a more vertical path.

This December, Spencer embarks on the group's debut charity voyage with two of his favorite Bozeman climbing bums, Travis Swanson and Jeremy Sinnema. The trio is headed for Ecuador, where over the course of 28 days they will climb eight peaks, five of which are over 15,000 feet high. The goal is to raise over $15,000 in pledges to donate to the Sudan Fund, which is facilitated by Christian humanitarian group World Vision.

One hundred percent of the donations and pledges collected by ACC for the mountaineering trip goes straight to World Vision—the climbers themselves are paying for all the costs of their trip to Ecuador. "We worked like mad all summer long," says Spencer, who took a summer construction job in Big Sky to fund the Ecuador expedition. However, ACC is soliciting gear sponsorships to help offset travel expenses. In exchange for donations and sponsorships, Spencer and crew plan to keep sponsors regularly updated with climbing details and photos.

To Spencer, the crisis in Sudan merits immediate attention. In the last three years, over 200,000 people—mostly innocents—have been killed in the government/rebel conflict. Over two million people have been rendered homeless and crammed into unsanitary refugee camps built from tin and tarps. Spencer chose to partner with World Vision, a large-budget, well-established 501(c)3 non-profit that has been working in Sudan since 1972. Contributions to World Vision provide blankets, clean water, and food to the refugees, as well as support for the development of education and health clinics. A $100 tax-deductible donation means a month of shelter, clean water, and food for a Sudanese family.

With a little help, Spencer's fledgling organization is taking some impressive baby steps. Friends rallied to build a comprehensive website, and with a few well-placed press releases, the group is receiving positive publicity in the Billings Gazette and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Publicity fuels fund-raising, and by Halloween, ACC had raised $1,200 and received pledges for an additional $2,000.

"The original idea was smaller but it's kind of snowballed out of control," says Spencer. "A lot of local people have pitched in."

Already planning ahead, Spencer hopes to facilitate other charitable community events thought ACC, such as local endurance race in the spring. Ultimately, he would like to make a philanthropic trip to Sudan, where "we'd actually be doing the work we're raising money for."

To donate to the Sudan Fund through Alpine Challenges for Charity, visit alpinechallenges.org or contact Michael Spencer directly at 580-0890 or [email protected].
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