Team Mountain was founded out of frustration. Following a 2016 kidney transplant (donation) surgery, Bob Kuykendall wanted to share his story of faith and organ donation with others. But people were busy. Bob turned to churches and social organizations and found them to be too busy and uninterested. It seemed everyone was too busy chasing their own “mountains,” that they found it hard to listen to anything that did not advance their own goals. Local church leaders advised that the story did not meet upcoming lesson plans, a local Christian radio station stated that they only interviewed paying guests, and even Facebook “likes” and comments drastically reduced after the newness of the story faded. So the idea to climb the tallest free-standing mountain in the world was born. It was a way to say, “We’re all climbing. I respect your climb, whatever it is, and I want to support you. After all, we’re all in this together.” First step, decide how to get to Tanzania, Africa. A call to Delta Airlines soon found more of the same. A Delta customer service rep’ explained that the company receives countless requests for special treatment or discounts each year, so a discount, even for a good cause, was out of the question. The only way to receive any consideration or benefit was to travel as a group of 10 or more. And so the invitations began. At first, it was just a way to complete the goal of Bob, his kidney recipient and Bob’s son traveling to the iconic climb, but it was all part of a greater plan to grow this idea into a vehicle of change. Fast forward to May of 2017, the first Team Mountain trek of Kilimanjaro will be undertaken by twelve individuals, each with his/her own goal or charity-support mission. Ironically, the recipient of the kidney will not be part of the journey as his path leads elsewhere. Like in life, we come in contact with others who may alter our course or change our direction, according to God’s plan, if we allow it. Our goals and our plans are not His plans, and have no real purpose other than keeping our minds busy while change happens around us. 2017 climbers listed in alphabetical order.
CHELSEA SUMMER FROST
Chelsea, 35, is newcomer to Birmingham and comes to us after time at Clemson University where she received her MBA. Chelsea has lived a nomadic life of sorts, moving to twelve different homes from Texas to Main and spots in between. She considers “home” to be wherever she and her Labra-Doodle happen to be at the time. When not working the corporate grind in marketing, Chelsea is typically escaping to exotic places to feed her wanderlust and adrenaline-junkie needs. A recent scare with breast cancer re-emphasized that life is short and there is no time like the present to achieve your goals and chase your dreams. The world works in mysterious ways and the Team Mountain opportunity came at a perfect time.
Josh Gates holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Alabama. Prior to college Josh served in the military as a team leader with the 75th Ranger Regiment. In 2015, Josh became CEO of Saturday Football, Inc., D.B.A. Saturday Down South, D.B.A Saturday Tradition, a digital media corporation headquartered in Florida. Josh has also served on the Saturday Football, Inc. Board of Director’s since 2014 and held the position of Chairman of the Board since 2015. Josh credits his success to the support and influence of others throughout his career. Consequently, he is excited to join Team Mountain in its mission of selfless service and support of those around us. We all face mountains in our lives. Often-times, the simplest act, or hand-up, provides the necessary encouragement for us to complete the ascent.
Stacy Griffin is a 43 year-old Alexander City, Alabama native who lives in Birmingham. She’s a single mother to her college-age son, Connor and her hiking companion, Lolli, a Black Lab. It was Lolli who got Stacy started hiking by exploring new trails and adventures. Stacy is climbing for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She chose the Foundation because she has experienced the devastating effects anxiety and depression can have on someone’s life. TeamMountain hopes to remind us that we are all on the same team, each climbing our own mountains, but sharing the same planet as we make these climbs. This is why we embrace our climbers’ own individual goals as our own. Stacy hopes to bring attention to the fact that for individuals suffering from anxiety and depression, every single day starts with a “climb” out of bed. Please visit Stacy’s individual campaign page HERE.
Calvin, 47, is a two-time kidney transplant recipient. His first kidney was donated by his mother in 1990, when he was just 20 years old. While in the hospital recovering, he was inspired by the nurses who took care of him to become a nurse himself. His second kidney was borne out of a tragedy. His cousin Amanda Wood Leedy died suddenly after an accident in 2013 and her family generously offer her kidney to Calvin, whose kidney function was declining. Calvin wants to live a life that honors the generous gifts from his mother and cousin, a life full of adventure and seeing as much of God’s creation as he can. Calvin is also a father to daughters Jordan and Heather, both of whom he is very proud. Calvin currently works at UAB as a team leader. Calvin wants to show that organ donation doesn’t just save lives, but those lives can be lived to the fullest. Your disease doesn’t define you. Please consider donating to the Alabama Kidney Foundation or to directly to Calvin’s GoFundMe page so that he can continue to raise awareness for the desperate need for organ donation.
Bob is one of the founders of Team Mountain. Bob is currently a Special Agent with the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and has worked in federal law enforcement for over 25 years, serving with the FBI, US Postal Inspection Service and now in his current role, investigating allegations of violation of drug laws, consumer fraud, medical quackery and terrorism. On the day this bio was entered, the days remaining in Bob’s government service is 542. Bob plans to retire at the age of 50 and move to full-time Realtor. Bob’s Real Estate Page. Bob also has a passion for substitute teaching, speaking, and is the author of the first in crime fiction series, The Addict – Closed Case Files. Bob has a passion for “living,” and is looking forward to adding pictures and video from Mount Kilimanjaro to his funeral video (yes, he has a funeral video) to those of him skydiving, scuba diving, and rock climbing. Bob married his high school sweetheart, Kelly, and the two have two amazing kids, Maddie (at Auburn) and Cade (his partner for Kili).
Cade is an 8th grader at Chelsea Middle School. Cade is Bob’s anchor for this journey and has struggled with his own obstacles that may be shared as the campaign continues. Cade has a recently-found love of rock climbing and recently competed in his first American Ninja Warrior (area) competition, finishing 3rd, and qualifying for the Regional ANW competition in April. You can check him out in action HERE.
Thomas joins Team Mountain from Georgia after having been tipped off to the adventure opportunity by friend and fellow 2017 Team Mountain climber, Josh Gates. Thomas seemed the perfect fit, and couldn’t turn down the Kilimanjaro opportunity, being an adventure seeker and world-traveler of 40 countries to date. Thomas is the managing partner at Breakout Games, and escape room in Atlanta, Georgia. Thomas sees Kilimanjaro as a bucket list item checked off, and an opportunity to make new friends along the way.
Amber is a laid back Alabama native who never says “no” to a new adventure or trying new things. She loves the outdoors whether it’s a backpacking trip or an afternoon relaxing on a Birmingham patio with friends and of course, her Pomeranian, Ninja! For Amber, Kilimanjaro is a new adventure that pushes her out of her comfort zone and to a new level of independence. The experience offered to Amber for this life-changing journey was just too much to pass up. The trip was offered during a stressful time in Amber’s life and is much-needed medicine. In addition to the Kilimanjaro trek, Amber and three others from the 2017 Team will stop off in Amsterdam for a few additional never-to-forget memories.
Brian worked in the medical field prior to transferring to a career in law enforcement which was ended on March 4, 2015 with a vehicle accident that resulted in multiple major spinal surgeries and the addition of eleven screws, two plates, two rods and a cage to Brian’s body. The young driver who crashed into Brian had been driving just a few weeks and was distracted by her cell phone. At the time of the crash, Brian was scheduled to climb Mt Everest, a goal that he was forced to put on hold. This trip represents his return to climbing and his preparation for Everest. In addition, the incident also sparked a desire to create a program aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.