Some people enter a walkathon to raise money for charity. Steve Rhodes will be walking, but not down a street or around a track.

The co-op CEO is going 19,341 ft. up Mount Kilimanjaro and is hoping to raise money for the NRECA International Foundation at the same time.

“It’s a bucket list item,” Rhodes says of his upcoming trip. The CEO of Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative (CHELCO), who is going with his wife and daughter, said they got to thinking, “If we’re going to do this, why not do something to benefit others as well?”

When he saw an ECT.coop article about the Electrify Africa Act, it clicked. After all, Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa, is in Tanzania, one of the countries where NRECA International works.

“I’m hoping we’ll be able to raise funds from co-ops that have never given to NRECA International,” Rhodes says. That list once included DeFuniak Springs, Fla.-based CHELCO, but the co-op board recently approved a $10,000 donation, a nice boost toward meeting the Rhodes family’s $30,000 goal.

“Between personal phone calls—reaching out to people I know at other co-ops and elsewhere—and hoping the publicity surrounding this might inspire people to give as well,” Rhodes says he sees it as achievable.

Also achievable is getting to Kilimanjaro’s peak, though the Rhodes family won’t be doing it with ropes and pulleys.

“I call it ‘mountain hiking,’” says Rhodes, 55. He’s hiked in Yosemite National Park and throughout the west, but “this will be the biggest challenge so far.”

They plan to begin their ascent September 11, reach the top September 17, and be back at base camp the following day.

“You go up very slow—you have to acclimatize. And then you come down quickly because they want to get you back to full oxygen,” Rhodes says.

Daughter Samantha, who recently started working at Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives in Columbus (statewide), calls it “the perfect combination of family, pushing our limits, memory making, and philanthropy all bundled into one trip.”

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