Interview: Aspiring Mountaineer Chantal Schauch on Founding Climb for Change and Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Prior to the official start of 2013, many of us put together resolutions, goals, or mental lists of things we want to accomplish this year. In 2010, one of my goals was to challenge myself by climbing Mount Rainier, and to do it for a cause greater than myself. It's absolutely one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

If one of your resolutions is to do something for a cause this year, Climb for Change might be exactly what you're looking for. Chantal and Mike Schauch recognized a need for a fundraising platform that would allow intrepid adventurers to climb, hike, bike or trek anywhere and to raise money for any (registered) organization they deemed worthy.

AI: What inspired you to start Climb for Change?

Chantal: My husband Mike and I launched the community on International Mountain Day in 2010. The vision was to create a story sharing and resource hub for individuals and teams from around the world who use climbing, trekking, hiking and adventuring as a means to raise funds for their favourite charities. This vision was inspired by us spearheading our own charity climbs up Kilimanjaro and Pico de Orizaba in 2010 and 2011.

AI: What's your goal with Climb for Change?

Chantal: There are thousands of charity climbs happening around the world, yet there was no one place where people could come together to share stories and experiences, and access campaign resources to make the fundraising process easier. Since the launch of our community, we’ve connected with thousands of charity climbers, trekkers and hikers from around the world. In particular, we were asked about providing a fundraising site that people could customize and use specifically for adventure challenges. So this is what we’ve just officially launched – the Climb For Change online fundraising platform for charity climbs, treks, hikes and adventures worldwide. We are currently the only crowdfunding platform catering specifically to charity climbs, treks and hikes. Our ultimate goal is to be the go-to fundraising hub for charity adventure challenges.

AI: Did you have any experience prior to Kilimanjaro in 2010? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?

Chantal on the Roman Wall, Mount Baker, Cascade Range.
Chantal: I’ve got a 15 year history of severe migraines and chronic tension problems. Back in 2008, I decided I’d had enough and got myself into a rehabilitation training program with an objective to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2010. But climbing just for myself didn’t seem right, so Mike and I decided to put a team together and fundraise for a local charity that provides outdoor education programs for youth and families facing significant life challenges.

Up to that point, I could hardly muster one day on a local hike without a migraine attack. Mt. Kilimanjaro became a symbol of inspiration and healing for me. Mike was immediately on board - he’d been climbing for over 10 years at that point and was eager to help. I’ve developed a passion for climbing volcanoes, making it successfully up Mt. Kilimanjaro, Pico de Orizaba, La Malinche, Nevada de Colima, Mt. Baker, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood. We also love hiking, especially in our own backyard in Vancouver BC, where we’re fortunate to have endless opportunities.

AI: Describe how the new fundraising platform works. If I wanted to create my own climb, what would I do?

Chantal: First, make sure you’re talking to the charity and getting them on board with your campaign. Let them know that you’d like to use Climb For Change for your campaign. We recommend a $2,500 minimum fundraising goal. Our platform is simple and it's free for you to set up the campaign site. We work with the charity on your behalf to register the donor form, which ensures that all funds donated through your campaign go directly to the charity’s bank account. Processing and merchant account fees apply to the charity. (Check out the how-to clip and current campaigns for more information!)

AI: What types of climbs do people typically host and what charities can participants fundraise for?

Chantal: Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the most popular and most lucrative ways of fundraising for charity through a climb. However, fundraising climbs, treks, hikes and adventures happen from small backyard hikes up a local hill or in a climbing gym, to Sahara desert challenges, to trekking or biking across other remote landscapes, to climbing Mount Everest or all Seven Summits for that matter. Our platform is available for any charity registered either in the USA, in Canada or the UK. As long as the charity agrees to you using the Climb For Change platform, you’re good to go. And why shouldn’t they – after all, you’re just providing a new fundraising channel for them!

Chantal and Mike on Uhuru Peak/Kilimanjaro.
AI: What are some of the best tips you have for folks who fundraise through Climb for Change?

Chantal: One of my main tips for starting is the following: “Know why you’re climbing - climb for genuine reasons.” With the thousands of charity climbs around the world each year, you’ll come across varying degrees of why people are out there. Everything from supporting a family or friend, to overcoming personal challenge, to sharing a message, to raising awareness, to growing personally and/or spiritually, to demonstrating personal or community leadership, to looking for an adventure...and the list goes on.

At the end of the day, don’t take any shortcuts. Have a stake in your charity adventure. Be fully committed and engaged, and undertake your charity climb for genuine reasons. Know in your heart why you’re climbing, and you’ll have a journey of a lifetime beyond your expectations (Visit the Climb for Change blog for more tips!)

As of this post, there are six active campaigns on the Climb for Change platform, including four with Kilimanjaro as the destination. However, one particularly inspiring campaigner set 22,841’ Mt. Aconcagua, and she leaves in less than a week.  Devon Dopfel is climbing for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, an organization that helped her navigate the challenging path of self empowerment after dealing with date rape. "It was a moment in time that left me angry, confused and untrusting." Her campaign site reads. "BARCC helped me to recognize my individual strength, and that I matter, and no one has the power to change me". There's still time to support Devon's cause before and after she leaves. Also, be sure to take a look at the other active campaigns; there are some incredibly deserving organizations on the list.

One of the coolest things about having an outdoor lifestyle blog is the chance to interview people like Chantal, and to share ways outdoorsy folks can make a difference in the world.  Have you ever done a charity climb? If you could set one up through Climb for Change, what would it be and what organization would you raise money for?