Spencer West has spent his life defying the odds and has now reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro using only his hands. He lost his legs when he was five years old and set out to scale the mountain with the intent to raise funds for Free The Children.
"I set out to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro not only to define what's possible for me, but to inspire others to overcome obstacles and challenges of their own and to give back to communities that need help," West told MarketWatch.com. "Reaching the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro was the most mentally and physically challenging thing I have ever done, but in doing so, it reinforced the powerful message behind believing in myself and believing in others."
West was born with a genetic disorder known as sacral agenesis, which causes significant damage to the spinal cord. When he was only three, West had his legs amputated below the knees and then had them fully removed by the time he was five.
The disorder left him at a significant disadvantage, doctors said, and he would never be able to function in the world. Yet West took that news with a grain of salt and set out to prove them wrong. He trained for a full year in preparation of scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro with his best friends.
Even though only 50 percent of climbers actually succeed in their attempt to reach the summit, West and friends were able to do so in one week. He blogged throughout the climb and gained numerous followers, including celebrities Nelly Furtado and Nina Dobrev.
"This was it! The day that possible would be redefined," West posted on the final day of the trek. "It was an almighty struggle, but… WE MADE IT!"
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West raised over $500,000 for Free The Children, which provides opportunities for children to help children through education. According to its website, Free the Children has "brought over 650 schools and school rooms to youth and provided clean water, health care and sanitation to one million people around the world."