By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – A Marlborough woman grew up with woods in her back yard, hiking through them and riding her banana-seat bicycle to get around. She read “Ranger Rick” magazines and devoured books, learning about safaris, and far-away mountains. As she prefers to be known, “Coach Cate” now works to inspire others toward healthy living.
She always dreamed of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. And recently, she returned from scaling the 19,341-foot peak.
As a longtime educator, she now substitutes for Sudbury Extended Day Program (SED) and volunteers with the kindergarten kids there. She’s also an outings leader for the Sierra Club. She heard the club was offering an excursion to Tanzania where she could climb to her long-desired summit, plus go on a safari.
Coach Cate learned they would be traveling near an orphanage and the travelers could bring items to donate. She was thrilled to be able to combine her love of nature, adventure and hiking with a means to help kids. She wanted to leave a mark in Tanzania and also help the kindergarten kids in Sudbury form a connection with the kids in Tanzania.
She found out the Sierra Club collaborates with Zara Charity, which offers tours to bolster community economic development and support underprivileged locals. She contacted Zara and arranged to visit the orphanage and local schools.
Prior to her trip, she formed a donation drive at SED to collect school supplies and sports equipment to give to children in Africa.
To help the kids connect, she decided to take her beloved stuffed chimpanzee, “Flo,” who the kids play with at SED, with her on her journey up Kilimanjaro, through the safari and to the orphanage and schools there. She knew that Flo would be adored wherever she traveled and that the SED kids would be able to recognize this commonality between them and the kids in Africa.
Coach Cate began her trek up Kilimanjaro with 12 others from the Sierra Club group, plus guides and porters who were skilled at navigating the terrain. They climbed in below freezing temperatures with high winds for seven days.
“I savored it the whole time,” she said, “every part of it. Taking your time going slow, this is a peaceful, meditative journey all the way to the top.”
A Zara worker accompanied her around the nearby town where she gave out sports equipment to neighborhood kids. She also delivered goods, including bookmarks made by the SED kids, to the schools and to children in the orphanage.
“They were all awesome,” she said of the kids she met. “Initially they were like ‘wow who is this person?’ and then they took Flo and ran with her. They were very receptive to me, very nice and happy. The connection was awesome.”
After her trip, Coach Cate gave a presentation of her travels for the SED kids and brought pictures the kids in Tanzania made for them.
“They saw pictures of the kids I met there and they saw how Flo was in Africa, how she climbed to the top, went on a safari and met all these kids,” she recalled.
She said she hoped it would inspire the kindergarteners to travel to Africa one day, climb Kilimanjaro, or go on a safari.