|Ronak, Achal, Preena, Swetal and Ruchir|
By Hetal Gandhi - They set off on a journey knowing it would change their lives and their entire perspective on life as they know it. That’s exactly what my family did on December 13, 2012, when seven people embarked on a mission to “Climb Kili” to benefit the Yash Gandhi Foundation. A year’s worth of training, reading and arming themselves with the best supplies could not have prepared them for peaks and valleys they would face along the way.
Throughout their trip, I’ve acted as a documentarian. A mere observer in some aspects, a messenger of sorts, but all the while, a loving sister, a proud aunt and a sympathetic sister-in-law, who tried to play a small part in a tremendous undertaking.
|Achal, Ronak, Ruchir, Swetal, Pritesh and Ashesh|
In the coming weeks and months, there will be much time for reflection from all the climbers and what they experienced, but what I can candidly share with you is how analogous this journey was to the cause which was the driving force behind it. The one thing I learned from watching my family take on this daring, bold and, at times, risky mission, is that what they did over the span of a week, in many ways, exemplifies the struggles of families dealing with children who have I-Cell.
Day after day, we waited for answers. Have they reached? Are they okay? Where are they now? Will they make it to the next camp safely? I can’t even imagine what it was like for the climbers, but I can tell you that for their families, it was brutal. It made me think that in some ways, the families who deal with I-Cell are much like the climbers – experiencing the grueling fight to keep moving on, sometimes shielding others from what they’re going through, feeling helpless at times, offering their support and just hoping they can do what it takes to get their child to the next milestone.
|Achal, Pritesh, Swetal and Ruchir|
I know at times, the climbers shielded us from the harsh realities of what they were really facing. They sent us messages telling us, “We’re safe, we made it, we’re all doing great.” In reality, we know that the emotional and physical challenges were much tougher than they lead on. You see, that’s part of what you do when you’re trying to protect the ones you love. The sad reality is that as much as parents with I-Cell do to protect their kids, there is always the harsh reality that there currently is no cure, and that this difficult path is one they will continue to endure for the rest of their lives.
On December 14th, as the Kili Climbers were facing the last few struggles before reaching the peak, we found ourselves facing painful and heart wrenching news here at home. Twenty children, many who were the same ages as the children of our climbers, had been brutally gunned down in Newtown, CT. You can only imagine what it was like for our group of mothers who were holding their children tight and wishing that daddy was home to comfort them at this horrible moment for our entire nation. It reminded us of an important lesson - that in life, your family, health and happiness are all that matters. This is why they did the climb. To help I-Cell families enjoy the same simple joys that we have.
|Preena and Achal|
I’m happy to say that after the peaks and valleys that we’ve faced through the past weeks and really through our lifetimes, there is nothing we will treasure more than welcoming home our climbers. You know them as Ashesh, Pritesh, Achal, Swetal, Preena, Ruchir and Ronak. We know them as daddy, bhai, ben, bhabhi and beta. We love them with all our hearts, we couldn’t be prouder of their achievements in 2012 and the great things they will do in 2013. Most importantly, we are grateful for your support as we continue to fight for those I-Cell families to always have these simple gifts of life. The truth you find at a top of a mountain, a world away, is that everything you need to make you happy is right here at home.