Two mountains, two continents: one passion for change
While working with seniors as a recreational therapist, Allan O’Meara was drawn to the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Ascent for Alzheimer’s as a way to give back to the community. “I love Africa, I love hiking, and it was a way to help out the Alzheimer Society of B.C. – it was win-win-win situation for me,” he says.
Since his Ascent in 2010, Allan has also participated in the MKGG. “Not everybody can afford to go to Africa, or has the time. I was on the Society board at the time, and someone came up with the idea of connecting the Grouse Grind to the Ascent – we decided seven times is almost as much as going up Kilimanjaro, so it’s teams of seven. Each year since, it’s snowballed – it’s getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger.”
Allan’s participation in Ascent for Alzheimer’s became a yearlong project for the seniors and families at Crofton House, where he was working at the time. “Some of the residents were so excited. They were like, ‘Oh, can we go with you?’ and I’m like, ‘Absolutely, you’ll be with me’ – and I thought of the idea of making a flag to take with me.”
For those who couldn’t sign their name, Allan had a stamp with two footprints. “That way, I could take them all with me. The staff signed it too. It was awesome – it wasn’t just me doing it, it was our community.” Allan has since worn this flag proudly during his participation in the MKGG.
The connections he found with his teammates during his Ascent remain today, and they often join him at the MKGG. Initially meeting his teammates, all from different walks of life, “was incredible,” he reports. “I didn’t know anyone else on the team – now we’re all pretty well family. It was a life-changing event – at the top, the sun was rising, and it felt like we could see forever.”
In MKGG’s first year, Allan did the Grind with his Ascent teammate Alana O’Connell, and ended up climbing Grouse Mountain four times. “You don’t know how much you can do. We set limits on ourselves. But for me, helping people with Alzheimer’s is a passion. They go through a lot of struggles every day, every minute – I thought, ‘I can do one more.’”
Join Allan O’Meara in the 2015 MKGG to help support the 70,000 British Columbians impacted by dementia. All you have to do is register, either on your own or as part of a team.