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NAF Team Member Joins Climbing Kili for a Cure

My name is Tanoa and I am NAF’s Social Media Coordinator. I am proud to announce that I will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro alongside Mike De Rosa this October! I will be there to document the journey through pictures and video and support Mike’s efforts as a compatriot on his journey.

Mike has Ataxia. He is climbing Kilimanjaro to raise awareness and support NAF.

Learn more or support his passion fundraiser here: Climbing Kili for a Cure.

A Seed of Inspiration

A lot went into my decision to join Mike on his climb. It wasn’t something I expected to do this year at all. If I’m honest, it is a bit intimidating to climb a mountain in a part of the world that I’ve never been to, but it is a challenge I am ready for.

Earlier this year, I traveled down to West Palm Beach with Jon, one of NAF’s Development Managers, to photograph the South Florida Walk N Roll. I was excited to capture what makes these events so special and fun, as well as the hard work that fundraisers put into them.

Near the end of the Walk N Roll, I remember speaking with my coworker about what a success the day had been. Jon made a comment about how great it was for me to be there to take photos. I lamented that I couldn’t take photos of every fundraiser and he commiserated. Then, he joked that it would be really awesome if I could take photos of Mike during his climb. At the time, I laughed it off and we went about the rest of the day, but the seed of an idea was planted that day in the Florida sun.

Joke to Reality: Tanoa's Unexpected Decision to Climb Kilimanjaro

A month later, I met Mike for the first time this year at the Annual Ataxia Conference in Las Vegas. He was one of a few hundred amazing community members I had the privilege to meet. I had previously heard about Mike’s past fundraising efforts for NAF and was amazed when I learned he would be climbing Kilimanjaro this year. Summiting the tallest mountain in Africa is an incredible feat to undertake. I was able to chat with Mike a few times over the few days of AAC. Because of how busy the conference was, our interactions were brief, but I specifically noted his friendliness toward everyone he interacted with.


By the time I returned home from AAC, I started to ask myself if climbing Kilimanjaro was something I might actually be able to do. Meeting Mike in person definitely left an impression on me.  It was maybe less than a week later when I found out that Mike had an open invitation for any NAF staff to join him that I started to seriously consider the possibility. The seed had started to root, and I was ready to water it.

In May, I set up a Zoom call with Mike (pictured above) and asked if I could join him. I barely finished explaining before he happily agreed. Later that day, he sent me all the information that I would need to know- everything from equipment to medical requirements to a training regimen. I am extremely grateful to Mike for his help in planning this. Even though I have been preparing for months, it is a huge mix of emotions. 

When I feel nervous about it though, I think to a couple days before I asked to join Mike. I was editing a vlog he made for social media (linked below) where he issued a challenge. Paraphrasing President JFK, Mike said, “Ask not what the National Ataxia Foundation can do for you. Ask what you can do for the National Ataxia Foundation.” That was the moment that the seed in my mind sprouted into action.

Mike De Rosa’s Vlog

Committing to the Climb

In order to accomplish NAF’s vision, it is not only going to take the efforts of those with Ataxia like Mike, but those of us without Ataxia to do our share of the work. For me, that includes climbing mountains, but I want you to think about the ways that you are able to help. There is no action too small, and your support is imperative. Please consider donating to Mike’s fundraiser and help spread the word in your communities, both offline and online. I hope that Mike’s efforts can inspire you as much as they inspire me. As of now, Mike and I are only a month away from travel so stay tuned. There is more to come!


Pictured: Tanoa on Iron Mountain in San Diego in August, training for Kilimanjaro.

Another Team Member Joins Mike to Train for the Climb

As Mike is gearing up for a monumental Kilimanjaro expedition, Tanoa isn’t the only person who jumped into action. Another dedicated NAF team member joined Mike for a training hike! Jon Wegman, our Development Manager, met up with Mike and Seth in August for a day on scenic trails in North Carolina. Check out photos from their training adventure below!

For questions on Mike’s climb or fundraising opportunities contact:
Jon Wegman – Development Manager

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