Connecticut Families

North Haven grandmother returns after charitable mission to top of Mt. Kilimanjaro

HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) - When we first met North Haven grandmother - and local CEO - Kathleen Bonvicini in mid-September, she was training for a monumental workout. 

"I have a simple task ahead of me to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro," she said with a smile.

She is now back in Connecticut - after accomplishing her amazing journey, a charitable mission. 

Related: North Haven grandmother to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for good cause

"It was life changing, it was incredible," she says with fresh enthusiasm. 

The 63-year-old cancer survivor is re-living her eight day experience on the highest free-standing mountain in Africa. 

"Hakuna matata - people know it from the Lion King but they say it all the time which means, 'Don’t worry, we’ve got your back,'" she explains, noting the landscape is demanding, to say the least.  "There were boulders, there were rocks...Poly poly - that’s the mantra on the climb.  Poly poly in Swahili means, 'slowly, slowly' and that’s what you do for most of the climb."

"The final ascent is really challenging because of the altitude - you’re reaching up over 19,000 feet," says Bonvicini who started this climb to the peak at midnight, feeling weak, struggling to breathe. 

She turned to her porter who became her hero. 

"Finally he used tough love with me which was the best thing," she remembers.  "He said, 'Mama do you want to turn around?'  and I said, 'No, I want to get up there!'" 

She reached the top and took-in the unbelievable sight. 

"This was sunrise, so, the beautiful orange, purple, yellow and the people - everyone is singing and dancing up there," she says.

When the climb was complete, Bonvicini returned to the Step Up Center where she had volunteered last year.  The non-profit school in Moshi, Tanzania is benefiting financially from Bonvicini's charitable climb.  She has already raised around $8,000 for two causes. 

"It was just a wonderful, happy, joyous reunion," she says, looking at pictures of beautiful, smiling faces.

An incredible goal - the adventure of a lifetime. 

"It was a dream.  Sometimes I look back and think, 'How did I do that?  Was I a different person?'  But then I think, 'It was me and I did it.'"

Bonvicini says she may never climb Kilimanjaro again but she will definitely return to Tanzania to visit her friends and the land she loves.

Click here to check out her GoFundMe page.

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