Celebrating a big birthday with a big goal

Photo of the Kilimanjaro

When Marcello Chiacchia thought about turning 60 in 2022, he wanted to do something big to mark the occasion. So he set his sights on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain and the world’s tallest, free-standing mountain. 

Chiacchia and his family always try to give back when they can, so he decided he’d also raise money to mark the occasion, setting what he thought was an ambitious goal of $10,000. As he has osteoarthritis in his knees, his wife lives with rheumatoid arthritis and both his mother and mother-in-law have arthritis, he decided he’d fundraise for Arthritis Society Canada.

“It’s amazing how many people you talk to who have been touched by the disease,” he said. “Our family certainly has.”

After some thought and discussion, he decided to stretch his goal even further to $19,341 – $1 for every foot of elevation of the mountain in Tanzania. Within 24 hours of sending an email to 500 of his friends, family and business colleagues, he was pleasantly shocked to have met his goal. A week later, his wife suggested he double his goal to account for the elevation back down, saying, “well, you’ve made it up the mountain, now you have to make it back down.” That new goal of $38,682 was again met within 24 hours. 

“It’s been very humbling to see people’s generosity,” he said. “I’m grateful and proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

With his fundraising goal met, all that was left was to climb the mountain. Chiacchia and 16 friends and family, including his son and daughter, began climbing on Aug. 5, with most of them summitting on Aug. 11. 

Marcello Chiacchia and his son Diego at the summit.As someone who lives with osteoarthritis, the climb was not without its challenges.

“Going up wasn’t so bad but coming down was pretty hard on my knees,” he said. “They were still pretty sore even a week later.”

It was worth it, though, to conquer something so big.

“It was exhilarating. It was surreal. We were excited and emotional,” Chiacchia said. “We were all pretty happy up there hugging and high fiving.”

After six days of climbing, they only had 15 minutes to enjoy the summit before it was time to head back down. Once back at the base, the porters and guides surprised them with champagne, birthday cake and a Swahili rendition of “Happy Birthday.”   

While Chiacchia likes to hike and keep in shape, he’d never done anything this big before.

“It’s exciting having accomplished it,” he said. “Now what’s next?”

Chiacchia has raised nearly $60,000. Help him get to $1,000 for every year of Marcello’s life so far by donating to the Conquer Kili for Arthritis 2022 Move Your Way page. You can create your own Move Your Way fundraiser too.