Highland Park dad, sons to climb Kilimanjaro
Howard Zavell with sons Max (left) and Ben. | Special to Sun-Times Media
HOMETOWN: Highland Park
Updated: January 9, 2013 1:02PM
HIGHLAND PARK — Highland Park resident Howard Zavell plans to climb Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro, in December with his sons Max, 15, and Ben, 12. They are using the climb as a chance to share an exhilarating adventure while raising money and awareness for Magen David Odom, the emergency services system in Israel. Information is available at www.opclimbmda.com.
Q. Why Mt. Kilimanjaro and why now?
A. While the climb takes you to 19,336 feet, it is not a technical climb. So you have the ability to experience a high-altitude climb, without the technical requirements that are usually associated with a high mountain experience. I have always thought that it would be a good physical challenge, but having my sons experience this with me has given it an entirely new meaning.
Q. I understand you first had some “push back” about taking your sons along. What convinced everyone that this is a good idea?
A. After talking with an old friend who had climbed Kilimanjaro, I realized that it was realistic to climb with my sons. My sons camp a lot, including in the winter. Having shared many outdoor experiences together, I felt confident that this was an adventure for which they could prepare.
Q. You’ve spent the last year in training for the expedition. What was your regimen?
A. Once we decided we were going to climb Kili, we started a stair climbing and hiking regimen. Mostly, we used the stair case at the Openlands in Fort Sheridan. We started with walking these, then running them, and then running up and down them while wearing a backpack. It was a terrific place to train, except we had a few wasp attacks during the summer.
Q. Why did you choose to raise money for Magen David Odom?
A. MDA is basically the Israeli Red Cross. It runs all of the ambulance and emergency services in Israel. It supplies 95 percent of the blood in Israel to the civilian population and 100 percent to the Israeli Defense Forces. MDA will help whomever needs it, without a question about race or religion. Today, MDA is even more important with the recent attacks and violence. No matter how you feel politically and emotionally about the situation, as a human being, you realize that the work which MDA does in Israel saves lives.
Q. What do you hope your sons will take away from the climbing experience?
A. My wife and I want our children to continue to learn that hard work and preparation are the keys to success, whether the task at hand is a physical adventure, a charitable act, an academic event or a business pursuit. By raising money for MDA, we’re teaching the importance of participating in causes beyond ourselves.