YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Chris Berlow, a Yorktown resident and business owner, is traveling to Africa to climb for a cure.
The 1988 Yorktown High School graduate has raised nearly $18,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, just under the elevation (in feet) of Mount Kilimanjaro, which Berlow will climb next month with nearly a dozen other philanthropists from the United States.
At 19,341 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain on the continent of Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, meaning it is not part of a mountain range.
Berlow is not climbing for anyone in particular, but said he was simply inspired to raise funds for an organization that has done so much good for others.
In fact, his business, United Martial Arts Center, has raised about $120,000 for the society. Master Berlow, as he is referred to by his students, just recently opened up a second school in Shrub Oak after operating only in Briarcliff for 20 years.
He will be climbing Kilimanjaro as a member of Team in Training, which was founded in 1988 by Bruce Cleland as a New York City Marathon team to raise money in honor of his daughter, a leukemia survivor. That day, $322,000 was raised for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a non-profit organization headquartered in Rye Brook. The organization was founded in New York City in 1949.
Team in Training has been raising money for the society ever since, and people from all over the world now run, cycle, hike or complete some other athletic feat to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The group of 12 people with whom Berlow will be climbing includes his brother, John, a paramedic and firefighter from Peekskill. Aside from two of his teammates, including a Mount Kisco woman, whom Berlow has trained with leading up to the climb, he will meet the rest of his teammates in Tanzania, where the mountain is located. The team is being led by Mike Phipps, a New York Police Department lieutenant by day and a hike coach in his spare time.
His team will depart for Tanzania on March 2. The trip includes a stopover in Amsterdam. The climb, Berlow said, is expected to take eight days to complete: six going up and two coming down.
So how is Berlow training for this climb?
“The number one thing you have to do is build your endurance,” he said. “If you have good endurance, you’ll do well on the mountain.”
Berlow and his brother just completed running a marathon in January. The brothers also hike every weekend, seeking out challenging areas. Late last month, they climbed Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts. At just 3,489 feet, Greylock is more than five times smaller than Kilimanjaro.
“The only thing I’m nervous about is the altitude,” Berlow said of Kilimanjaro.
Still, Berlow is confident his training will pay off. In addition to his endurance training, Berlow has been doing a lot of strength training, which includes a lot of squats. Much of his training is also being done in the cold weather to prepare for the mountain’s chilly peak.
“Kilimanjaro is called ‘Every Man’s Everest,’” Berlow said, referencing the world’s tallest mountain. “Everyone is able to do it so long as they train for it.”
Travelers who reach the top of Kilimanjaro will experience five different ecosystems: a cultivated zone and forest near the base; a forest zone between 5,900 and 9,186 feet; an alpine heath zone between 9,186 and 13,124 feet; an alpine desert between 13,124 and 16,405 feet; and the ice cap from 16,505 and 19,341 feet.
Mount Kilimanjaro is also a volcano, which hasn’t erupted for hundreds of thousands of years.
“Hopefully it doesn’t start again when we’re on top,” Berlow said.
While in Africa, Berlow also hopes to visit local schools and teach them taekwondo.
On top of climbing mountains and teaching martial arts, Berlow is also an author. In January, he released his debut book: “Mindful Meditation for Busy Lives.” For the book, Berlow interviewed 20 people who used their hobbies as forms of meditation.
Donations can be made at pages.teamintraining.org/ctwhv/mtklmjr16/cberlow.