SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- When Hailey Rachko, a 2015 graduate of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, sets her sights on something she aims high.
Now a junior at Boston University, Hailey plans to climb to the base camp of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, shortly after taking her final exams in May. She and 26 other students from across the country will spend nine days climbing up the mountain (in order to acclimate to the altitude), but take just two days to come down.
The journey is run through Choose a Challenge, a UK-based organization that pairs challenges with causes. Participants solicit sponsorships. Half of the money raised covers the cost of the trip, while the other half goes to the designated charity, The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, the largest provider of financial assistance to families of children with cancer nationwide. The organization is a leader in childhood cancer research funding, as well as raising awareness and advocating for children with cancer.
“I’m joining The B+ Foundation and raising money to help fight childhood cancer,” Hailey, a member of the youth group at St. Bartholomew Church. “I know this will be a challenge. But EVERY day is a challenge for the 46 kids who are told they have cancer each school day.”
“We plan to meet with the families that will be helped. Based in the northeast association with Boston Children’s hospital.”
Hailey’s roommate, Noelle Fallacara, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with Choose a Challenge last year, and this time around convinced Hailey to join her. Although she is a hiker, Hailey will be climbing a mountain for the first time.
“I probably could have started on a smaller scale,” she admits.
Getting in shape won’t be too difficult, since she is a member of BU’s Div. I dance team and goes through a lot of intense cardio training six days a week.
“We go to nationals in the first week of April. At that point, I’ll be in great shape,” said Hailey, who was a cheerleader at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School (class of 2015).
“To get to the base camp, it’s a lot of hiking – three to four 4 days,” Hailey explained. “On the fourth day, we will stay in a village for a full day to acclimate and then we head to the base camp with the help of Sherpas and yaks.
Before the excursion, Hailey will focus on school. She will complete her final exams during the week before the group leaves from JFK Airport.
“The trip overlaps graduation. Some seniors are skipping graduation to do this,” said Hailey, a junior who plans to pursue a career in health care. “The flight leaves JFK and goes non-stop to Nepal. From there, a helicopter will bring us to Katmandu.”
Although a little nervous, her mom thinks it will be a great experience.
“She wants to help people; she’s that kind of person. She made a Powerpoint presentation to sell the idea to us,” Carol Rachko, said.
What to expect from Mount Everest
Hailey says she knows the trip will be a challenge and wants to go into it with minimal expectations.
“My friends here in Scotch Plains think I’m crazy,” said Hailey who attended McGinn Elementary and Terrill Middle School. “They’re thinking what have they done to her at school?”
Meanwhile, Hailey is collecting information on climbing from others who have done trips with Choose A Challenge.
“I’m asking a lot of questions of people who went last year,” Hailey said. “On Mount Kilimanjaro, they didn’t know when temperatures will go from 90 to 15 degrees. The mental part with be the biggest struggle.”
Hailey’s goal is to raise $5,500. In advance of the climb, she has organized a medium-reading here in Scotch Plains, a fundraising event that Blaze Pizza and Boston University, and a “late night bake sale” that will cater to students with the munchies. To support Hailey’s effort, visit her fundraising page.
What will she do afterwards?
“This will stay with me. I’ll stay with the organization,” Hailey said. “Maybe I’ll climb another mountain.”
TAPintoSPF will continue follow Hailey Rachko’s journey. There is WiFi on Mount Everest, and she will be forwarding images from near the top of the world when she can.