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Mountain for Miracles: Students to Climb Summits for Pediatric Cancer Research

Scale seven summits in seven continents within seven months. A group of HBS and Kennedy School of Government students aim to do exactly that to raise funds for research in pediatric oncology. Spearheaded by former U.S. Army officer, John Serafini (MBA/ MPA 2007, Old Section F), the Mountain for Miracles expedition aims to raise $5 million toward the fight to cure pediatric caner. The expedition is also an attempt to set a new world record in scaling the highest summits in each of the seven continents of the world within 198 days to best the current record of 214 days set by the legendary mountaineer Rob Hall.

The expedition has its roots in a personal story of healing. John’s sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and was treated by the Children’s Hospital in Boston in June this year. Grateful to the medical staff at Children’s Hospital for her recovery, John decided to combine his personal interest in mountaineering with the opportunity to give back to the community, and developed the idea of scaling the seven summits as a fundraising expedition.

Friends Boyd Bishop (MBA 2006, Old Section H) and Andy Murphy (MBA/ MPA 2007, Old Section E) were roped in to form the core mountaineering team, along with Brad Clement, an experienced freelance camera operator who specializes in mountaineering filming. Three months ago, the Mountains for Miracles campaign was born, with a growing team dedicated to organizing the expeditions, raising public awareness and planning fundraising efforts.

The team will embark on its seven-month odyssey by scaling Mount Aconcagua in Argentina this December, targeting to reach the summit on New Year’s Day. Early 2007 will see the team scaling Mount Vinson in Antartica, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and Mount Kosciuszko in Australia before tackling Mount Everest in May 2007. The expedition team will swing around to Mount Elbrus in Russia before wrapping up in Denali in mid-July. The sequence is very much determined by the peak climbing periods of each mountain; the best time to climb Mount Everest, for instance, is in May.

The Team
The core team is comprised of both experienced and first-time mountaineers. John Serafini and Brad Clement both have extensive experience scaling mountains in both the United States and internationally. Boyd Bishop, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and former U.S. Army Medical Service Officer, and Andy Murphy, an avid marathon runner, are both learning mountaineering for the very first time. Both are confident they will be ready to tackle the summits within the next year and are, in fact, very excited about taking on this challenge. As Boyd commented, “It was a chance to be part of something larger than life.”

Apart from the filmmaker Brad, the other three members of the core team are currently students of HBS and the KSG. Each is making sacrifices for the cause of cancer research. John and Andy are taking a semester off from their joint MBA/MPA program in order to complete the climb. Boyd will spend a year after graduating from HBS (in June 2006) and working on public relations and development to complete the climbs.

The core team is supported by a group of 25 fantastic volunteers working on fundraising and preparing the mountaineers for the expedition. John commented, “We have an overwhelmingly outstanding team. It is a tough and challenging experience but it is important for us to plan this day-by-day, have a strong vision and work with the strong team we have.”

John’s fianc‚e, Daniele Flaherty, is leading the marketing effort, while Rich McPhillips, currently a student pursuing the joint MBA/ MPA degree from the Kellogg School of Management and KSG, is coordinating logistics. Sara Pollak (MBA 2006, Old Section A) is in charge of finances, while Graves Tompkins, Jamie Ponce and Kate Kohler (MBA 2006, Old Section A), all joint MBA/ MPA degree students, are working on development and corporate appeals.

The volunteer group has been growing steadily but the team is still looking for help from anyone who is interested in contributing to a great cause. Boyd, who is currently also working on development and public relations for the campaign, said, “We are a non-profit organization, and we welcome anyone who has a desire to get involved, no experience is required.” The campaign has also requested help through the Volunteer Consulting Organization for a HBS consulting team to look into its marketing and fundraising needs.

What You Can Do To Help
The campaign is looking to raise $5 million through a combination of corporate donations and public fundraising. A formal kick-off event will be organized in the spring of 2006 to launch the public fundraising campaign, but there will be an opportunity for you to start contributing to the expedition right now if you attend “The Red Hot Party” Thursday, December 1. Billed as “The Harvard University Holiday Kick-off Event,” this can’t-miss event will be held at The Liquor Store at 25 Boylston Place. It will feature the hip-hop dance group Dolce and offers a rare chance to mingle with members of Harvard’s other graduate schools (yes, you get to meet non-HBS folks at long last!). There is a suggested $20 donation at the door, which will benefit the Mountains for Miracles campaign.

Party on at the Red Hot Party, and support the expedition team and a great cause. If you are interested in volunteering your time to help organize campaign the Mountains for Miracles campaign, contact Boyd Bishop at bbishop@mba2006.hbs.edu.

The Red Hot Party
A Harvard University Holiday Kick-off Event
Thursday, Dec. 1
10:00 pm-2:00 am
The Liquor Store
25 Boylston Place (In the Alley)
Boston, MA 02116
Email Boyd Bishop at bbishop@mba2006.hbs.edu for more details.

Mountains for Miracles Itinerary

Mt Aconcagua
S. America
Argentina
6956m
20 Dec 06 – 3 Jan 07

Mt Vinson
Antarctica
Antarctica
4897m
6 Jan 07 – 17 Jan 07

Mt Kilimanjaro
Africa
Tanzania
5895m
1 Feb 07 – 8 Feb 07

Mt Kosciuszko
Australia
Australia
2228m
11 Feb 07 – 17 Feb 07

Mt Everest
Asia
Nepal/ Tibet
8848m
17 Mar 07 – 29 May 07

Mt Elbrus
Europe
Russia
5636m
3 Jun 07 – 12 Jun 07

Denali (Mount McKinley)
N. America
USA
6194m
1 Jul 07 – 17 Jul 07

November 21, 2005
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