Lisa Simmons

Roswell resident Lisa Simmons, president of Beacon Management Services, finishes her 2018 Grand Canyon hike to raise funds for the nonprofit BlazeSports.

ROSWELL, Ga. — One Roswell woman is leading the charge on fundraising again for a local nonprofit. But this time, it’s with a twist: a hike up Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. 

Lisa Simmons, president of Beacon Management Services, will complete the hike Aug. 12-20 to raise awareness and funds for BlazeSports, a local nonprofit that empowers children and adults with physical disabilities through sports. It regularly helps over 1,000 people in the Metro Atlanta region. All donations from the hike will go directly to the organization to purchase new wheelchair and track equipment as well as support athletic programs for participants with disabilities. 

“It is truly a remarkable organization,” Simmons said. “This nonprofit provides life-changing sports programs... As a female business owner, I see the importance they place on inclusion for all participants.”   

This is the second fundraiser hike Simmons has carried out for BlazeSports. Last year, she hiked the Grand Canyon, rim-to-rim, and raised $13,000 for the organization. 

The Grand Canyon trip, Simmons said, changed her and made her realize she can do so much with her life.

“It made me want to do more for BlazeSports,” she said. “They have an incredible program to help physically disabled children and veterans. They’ve helped over one million people across the country… I want to help encourage them do as much as they can.”

BlazeSports Interim Executive Director Mara Galic said she is touched by Simmons’ efforts. 

At BlazeSports, we encourage athletes with all levels of abilities to achieve new heights,” Galic said. “Lisa’s efforts demonstrate this same philosophy.”

The idea for Simmons’ 2019 hike began to take shape as she was flying back to Atlanta after her Grand Canyon hike last year. She considered returning to the Grand Canyon again but eventually settled on Mount Kilimanjaro.

“It just popped into my mind,” Simmons said. “I became so fascinated with it. There are so many facets of it that are so fascinating, and the more I read about it, the more intrigued I became.”

For example, Simmons said it’s one of the few hikes in the world that goes through five climate zones, and the top has been compared to the surface of the moon.

The trip will take eight days, Aug. 12 to 20, as Simmons treks across the Machame route with eight other women. The route approaches Mount Kilimanjaro from the south, through a rain forest, to Shira Plateau and goes east underneath the mountain’s southern ice field before summiting. It’s a longer route that will allow Simmons to more easily acclimate during the hike. 

Mount Kilimanjaro rises 19,341 above sea level, where oxygen is low. 

“There’s a chance for altitude sickness at that elevation,” Simmons said. “That’s something I can’t prepare for. I live in Georgia, not Colorado, so I can’t hike the Rockies or something like that. I’m just going to have to deal with it as comes.”

Altitude sickness could manifest with fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and in more serious cases, swelling of the brain or death.

To help mitigate any potential problems, Simmons will travel with a required guide from Tanzania. And to prepare, Simmons has spent at least an hour every day on a Stairmaster along with regular strength training and 11-13-mile hikes over the past few months. 

Simmons kicked off the fundraising campaign last month by jumping 14,000 feet from a plane in Georgia with BlazeSports board member and adaptive sports athlete Duane Morrow. 

“I thought in the past that I would never jump out of a plane or skydive — never, never, never,” Simmons said. “But then I realized that if Duane can do it, paralyzed, what’s my excuse?”

The fundraising stunt worked. To date, the campaign has raised $15,000, already $2,000 over the fundraising from last year’s hike. 

For more information and to donate, visit blazesports.org/ways-to-give/LisaSimmons.

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