In less than a month, 28-year-old Phillip Berenz will climb Mount Kilimanjaro to help Boston-area people who, like him, are living with Cerebral Palsy.
“This is the first time I’ve every done anything like this. But I’ve worked really hard to get to a place where I can help others,” said Berenz, a Brighton resident and co-founder of Climb for Cerebral Palsy.
On Feb. 6, Berenz and three of his rock-climbing buddies will ship out to Tanzania, where they will battle the 19,341-foot volcanic mountain.
The charity aims to raise $30,000 for United Cerebral Palsy of MetroBoston, a non-profit that provides services to people with cerebral palsy and similar disabilities. The group has been able to raise $10,000 so far.
After the climb, Berenz will have the distinction of being the third person with Cerebral Palsy to climb Kilimanjaro.
“My goal is to show people that we all have the ability to make a change in this world and go out and help others,” he said.
Berenz was born nearly three months premature, and due to complications at birth suffered hypoxia.
At 18 months he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, which affects the right side of his body – mainly his right leg. Berenz said he is able to take on the climbing challenge thanks to years of physical therapy and a crucial surgery he received at 8-years-old.
Berenz’s teammate Austin Whipple said he is “a little nervous, but excited” about the challenge.
“It’s been a long build up, but it’s a great opportunity to raise money for people who aren’t as fortunate as (Berenz) has been with his recovery,” said Whipple, a Vermont native who has done climbs in the White and Green Mountains.
After months of training at rock gyms and a trip to Colorado to hike a 14,000-foot-mountain, Berenz and his team hope the week-long trek will go off without a hitch and inspire people living with disabilities.
“As a kid my balance was horrible. I always fell, but I learned to always get up. Now it’s engrained in me,” he said. “The climb is about the idea of never giving up and always pushing forward.”
Check out an interview with Berenz: