Last month, the Hemendinger family of Amity Harbor, NY successfully reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. Together, as a family, they completed the 10 day journey of the highest free standing mountain in the world at 19,341 feet. The 91 mile round trip journey consisted of daily hiking through five different climate zones of Kilimanjaro including a Rain Forest, an Alpine Desert, and the Arctic Summit.
Reaching Mt. Kilimanjaro’s summit symbolized the family’s recovery and freedom from a decade’s battle with eating disorders. In 2005, Nancy and Gerald’s twin teenage daughters, Ashtyn and Emily, were diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. During this time, the family struggled with locating the right treatment facilities routinely traveling from Long Island to Massachusetts, North Carolina, and New Jersey as well as the financial burden associated with cost of treatment.
Emily Hemendinger, who has been in recovery for 10 years and now an eating disorders therapist in Denver Colorado, said “30 million people suffer with a clinically significant eating disorders in the United States and many more go undiagnosed. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness. In addition, research for evidence based treatment is severely underfunded and we, as a family, wanted to make a difference and set an example that there is a light at the end of the tunnel…there is hope.”
Gerald Hemendinger added that “together we walked as a family, step by step, to the summit of Kilimanjaro. This climb was reflective of our struggles as a family during treatment, in which we were able to boost each other up at times of despair, it defined our strength as individuals and as a family, and for others in similar situations you too can reach your summit by having faith and hope.”
The family is still accepting donations at myneda.org/hemendinger until they reach their goal of $19,341. The donations go directly to the National Eating Disorders Association’s Feeding Hope Fund for Clinical Research, which provides grants to top-level researchers in the eating disorders field.
For more information or to contribute please visit: myneda.org/hemendinger.