72-Year-Old Set to Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for SickKids

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Rick McGraw, 72, is setting out to conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto.

When Rick McGraw steps on the KLM flight to Amsterdam at Toronto Pearson International Airport late this afternoon, with a connection in Nairobi, he won’t be wearing travel clothes. He’ll be wearing mountain-climbing gear and taking his first step on his way to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

McGraw has trained hard for his expedition.

“I’ll be dressed in my hiking boots to save room in my luggage,” McGraw explains.

Starting out on Sunday, he’ll spend seven days on the iconic mountain—”five days up and two days down.”

So why is a 72-year-old entrepreneur attempting a climb Kilimanjaro?

It’s all about the challenge—but not just the obvious ones of endurance, perseverance and proving his mettle.

The greater challenge for McGraw, and the real reason he’s setting out to conquer Kilimanjaro, is raising money for The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto—specifically for the purchase of a laser machine for brain surgery that enables precise and minimally invasive surgeries for kids with brain tumours and certain types of epilepsy.

“They need this wonderful technology,” he said, “and they’re going to have it. We’re at 96 per cent of my target. We have $11,000 to go.”

McGraw is hoping the total can be reached by the time he reaches the mountain peak or, better yet, by the time he steps off the plane.

“Raising money to help support the purchase of the laser has become more important to me than the climb,” he says.

Still, he admits that he’s not only excited about the adventure but also nervous about the altitude.

“Altitude affects everybody differently,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter what your condition or age is. Some bodies work better than other with less air. Some bodies breeze through, some shut down.”

McGraw has climbed as high as 12,000 feet in Peru, but the Kilimanjaro climb will take him up to 19,500 feet.

He’s doing the trip with Medcan, which takes care of all the logistics and provides guides, gear and support on the mountain at a cost of $9,120, excluding airfare. Medcan also provides a few conditioning sessions and comprehensive advice about training.

McGraw went about his training with the same focus he’s brought to his position as co-founder, president and CEO of Greenrock Capital Partners; to his business ventures, including, among many others, Mississauga Honda, Parkway Honda, and Skyway Scaffolding.

He’s described by Bloomberg as “a successful entrepreneur and an active investor. Mr. McGraw has been founding, operating and developing businesses both private and public in a variety of industries for more than 40 years.”

But Mr. McGraw has also been walking the streets lately.

He’s trained hard for climbing the mountain. He’s been walking two to three hours a day at a pace of about four kilometres per hour.

“I’ve walked on streets I never knew existed in Toronto,” he says. “I bought new hiking boots eight weeks ago and I’ve put over 200 kilometres on them.

He worked with a trainer three times a week, went to spinning classes, did other aerobics and lost weight.

“Also part of my training program is massage and acupuncture, not because I had problems but because I was trying to optimize my body.

He adds,” I haven’t had a drink for two months. It wasn’t hard at all.”

One of the bigger challenges was learning how to use the GPS he’ll be carrying up the mountain so family, friends and all of us who wish him well can track his ascent.

For more information about the July 22 climb at medcan.com, go to Our Services, Live Well Programs, Kickstart: Kilimanjaro Climb. You can also visit Rick’s page on the SickKids website.