Derek Davies Climbs Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis


By: Paula Green

The majestic Mount Kilimanjaro soars in northeastern Tanzania. Recently, Derek Davies, 22, of Franklin Park climbed Africa’s highest peak in an effort to raise funds for cystic fibrosis. He was named one of “Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest” by the CF Foundation.
“Since I was a teenager, I always had an interest in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro after watching a TV documentary. I never believed I would have the courage to do it. Years later, I graduated from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas and came home wanting to do charitable things. God answered my prayers and I met Cyndi Nace, the former director of special events for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and current CF director Lauren Pesce,” Davies remarked.
He pitched his fundraising campaign idea – to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for cystic fibrosis. He set a fundraising goal of $8,000 and managed to exceed that goal when he raised $9,300. After months of preparation, Davies made the trek to Africa in July.
“Next thing you know I was in Africa wondering what had I signed-up for as I was standing in this third world country, the fourth poorest country in the world, Tanzania. I’ve done much traveling but have never seen anything like this before, nor have I ever gone on and eight-day trek through nature. I met up with a group of four other Americans. We had 18 people helping us up the mountain. I NEVER could have done it without their help,” Davies added.
“It was the hardest mental battle I have ever experienced. The navigation wasn’t difficult but the altitude sickness took an enormous toll on us. I felt like someone was sitting on my chest. I thought this wasn’t even close to how people who are healthy and have CF with minimal lung capacity feel, they have it way, way worse,” Davies said.
“We finally made it to the Summit and it was the most amazing feeling ever. It felt absolutely unreal and we forgot about our struggle while we celebrated. It was emotional because everyone there had their own personal reason for climbing the mountain. Going down was almost as difficult because you’re totally exhausted. There was dust everywhere, it was hot, and you were sinking and slipping.
Climbing that mountain kicked my rear end and made me feel small in this world. It also made me feel so thankful for everything that I have. I thank God every day for this experience and pray that one-day cystic fibrosis will no longer be incurable.”
During this experience, Davies managed to meet Morgan Yoney, who is a local 22-year-old woman who has cystic fibrosis and is in need of a double lung transplant. Davies is planning on climbing Mt. Fuji in Japan this fall to raise awareness for Morgan/CF and help find her lungs. He is wanting to conquer the Inca Trail in Peru in the spring.
For more information on the fundraising effort for Morgan Yoney, visit https://www.gofundme.com/morgansarmy or https://www.facebook.com/morgansarmy/. To find out more about the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, visit https://www.cff.org/WesternPA/.