In March, 7-year-old Montannah Kenney set out to honor her dad by climbing 19,341-foot-high Mount Kilimanjaro. She ended up setting a world record.
My dad died when I was 3 years old. He’s in heaven now, and that’s a long way up from here, and there isn’t much you can do about that—except climb a mountain. If you climb a mountain so high that you reach above the clouds, you can get close to heaven and closer to my dad. I have wanted very much to be closer to my dad for many years.
One day, I overheard my mom telling my aunt that she wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, and she wanted people to join her. So, I asked, “Why not me? I want to climb with you.” She didn’t say yes right away because there’s a rule that says you must be older than 10 to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but she did what she had to and got special permission for me.
I didn’t mind training for the climb. I like to run, swim, hike and I do triathlons like my mom, so I was already in shape when we started training. What was different was that we had to do lots of hikes with hills and stair training to train our muscles for climbing. Then, in March this year, we got to Tanzania in Africa and to the bottom of Mount Kilimanjaro. It wasn’t at all what I expected. I thought it would be really hilly, but this mountain isn’t like that, at least not at the bottom. I was kind of nervous but also really excited.
What surprised me was how many people were in our team of guides and porters. There were 25 people just to get my mom and I to the summit! It took us six and a half days to go up the mountain and just one and a half to come down. A lot of that time was spent eating, if you can believe that. Because I’m a kid and so lean, we had to stop every 15 minutes for me to eat something to keep my energy levels up, and we drank gallons of water.
At night, we stayed in tents and it was sometimes fun, but not always. Because it was cold and it rained or snowed the whole time we were on the mountain, we had a lot of water leaking into our tent at night, which got everything all wet. I still had to do school work every day, but that only got a little wet.
Finally, we got to the summit and it was the best feeling ever. I didn’t really think about being the youngest girl to ever climb Mount Kilimanjaro or setting a world record, although that is cool. The best thing about being on top of the mountain was that I was so close to heaven, so close to my dad. I didn’t want to leave.
Now I’m back home and back to school and just being a regular kid. I like school. Math is my favorite subject, and I like to read. I love broccoli and the color blue, and I also like to watch TV. My favorite shows are Bunk’d and Dancing With the Stars.
I’m thankful I had this opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with my mom.
Now we’re using our experience to raise awareness and money for a treatment of the condition that led to my dad’s death. Mom says eye-movement-desensitization-and-reprocessing therapy can really help people with post-traumatic stress disorder, but not everybody can afford it. So, our first goal is to raise $30,000 on GoFundMe to help at least 10 families so they do not have to go through the same thing we did. If we can do that, Mom says we will have done something really meaningful to honor Dad’s memory. That’s my new goal.
Montannah Kenney is a second-grader at River Ridge Elementary School. Those interested in donating to the Kenneys’ GoFundMe page can visit gofundme.com/emdrawareness.