Jameses climb Kilimanjaro for St. Jude

Mary Pat and Dennis James will climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa to raise donations for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. Their goal is $19,341, one dollar for each foot of elevation. (CONTRIBUTED)
Mary Pat and Dennis James will climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa to raise donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Their goal is $19,341, one dollar for each foot of elevation. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – In a globe-spanning adventure, Dennis and Mary Pat James are proving their commitment to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

They will climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa — the world’s largest freestanding mountain with its peak at 19,341 feet. The Jameses’ goal is $19,341, one dollar for each foot of elevation.

“We start our eight-day Kilimanjaro trek on Sept. 21. It takes 6.5 days to reach the summit; 1.5 days to climb down,” Dennis James said. Their ascent is slower to acclimate to the altitude, thus avoiding altitude sickness, the main deterrent to reaching the summit.

Dennis is Director of Student Services for Madison City Schools. Mary Pat works as a paralegal at Callahan PC.

Taking the Lemosho route up Kilimanjaro, the Jameses will join five other climbers, guide and assistant, cook and porters. Camping in tents, they can carry 30 pounds of gear, plus backpacks.

To train, the Jameses are waking at 4:30 a.m. for six- to eight-mile walks. “We’re in decent shape” for our age, he said. “We’ll go through all five climate zones — tropical rainforest (to) glaciers on the summit.”

The couple’s dedication to St. Jude began with a half-marathon in Memphis many years ago. “The Danny Thomas story is so moving. When the hospital was founded, survival rates for most childhood cancer were less than 10 percent. Through hard work over the years, survival rates for most cancers are more than 85 percent,” Dennis said.

They have received commitments from Tennessee to Texas. Dennis credits their idea to “Funky Winkerbean,” a comic strip by Tom Batiuk, who has sent his endorsement.

Madison school campaigns for St. Jude will begin in October and have collected about $300,000 total.

For a $1,000 donation, the Jameses will carry a business logo to the summit. For $5,000, they’ll hoist a lightweight flag. Although he’s a Crimson Tide fan, he’ll carry an Auburn Tiger flag for $5,000.

All donations go directly to St. Jude. To donate, visit heroes.stjude.org/mcskili. For information, call 256-464-8370 or email to dennis.james@madisoncity.k12.al.us.

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