“Don’t go for a smaller mountain!”

On Monday, July 22 at 10:00am, Girls Incorporated of the Greater Capital Region was formally presented with a $2,149 donation from two Class of 2013 Oneonta High School graduates who climbed Mt. Marcy in New York’s Adirondacks for female empowerment, and designated Girls Inc. as the sole recipient of all pledges and donations.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy commended the bravery and philanthropic efforts of Rachel Nader and Erin Bischoff, both 18, at Monday’s celebration. Albany-Colonie Chamber Vice President Laura Dehmer addressed the girls’ courage, and Otsego County Chamber Executive Director Barbara Ann Heegan read and presented a proclamation from Oneonta Mayor Richard Miller, Jr. Ashley Jeffrey, Executive Director of Girls Incorporated of the Greater Capital Region, read aloud a letter of commendation from U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The girls’ teacher, Michael Morelli, introduced the girls after explaining this endeavor evolved from his Legacy Project, now in its third year. In the final month of the school year, Morelli asks his students to come up with the project they were never assigned but wish they had been.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy with Mt. Marcy Climbers Erin Bischoff and Rachel Nader

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy with Mt. Marcy Climbers Erin Bischoff and Rachel Nader

Also in attendance was a representative from one of Girls Inc.’s key sponsors, NationalGrid, also the sponsor of the organization’s Summer Fun camp program. At the Girls Inc. Albany site on Washington Avenue, where Monday’s celebration was held, about 30 campers are participating in the six-week program. They were part of the audience as Nader and Bischoff made their presentation, and asked the climbers many questions afterward. Several members of the Girls Inc. Board of Directors also attended.

Nader and Bischoff, both of Oneonta, called their project “Girls Climbing High”. On Friday, May 24, in rainy and icy conditions where winds topped about 55 miles an hour, the two teens and three friends reached the 1,629-meter summit of the highest peak in the Adirondacks in about four-and-a-half hours. They made the trip back down the same day in about five-and-a-half hours.

“We knew we wanted to complete a physical challenge for a cause,” said Nader.

“We came up with the idea of climbing a mountain,” said project partner Bischoff, “using a theme of female empowerment.” Neither of the two has ever completed a climb like this before. According to a blog written by Jeannine Trimboli for the Times Union newspaper, the climb was much more difficult and taxing, both physically and mentally, than the teenagers expected. But also according to the blog, they said they were glad it wasn’t easy.

“Don’t go for a smaller mountain,” said Nader, as she addressed the audience, particularly the Girls Inc. campers who range in age from about 6 to 15. Both climbers shared the resounding message, “you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Nader and Bischoff asked peers and Oneonta community members to pledge donations for their hike, with a goal of $1,629 – one dollar for every meter of Mt. Marcy’s height. With their own community outreach efforts, aided by social media and a fundraising website, the endeavor raised more than $2,100. Both climbers are bound for SUNY colleges this fall; Nader will attend Binghamton University and Bischoff will attend SUNY Fredonia.

“We are so proud of these young ladies,” said Ashley Jeffrey, Executive Director of the Greater Capital Region affiliate of Girls Inc. “Our mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold, and these girls are wonderful role models for the young girls we serve. Their philanthropic actions are very deserving of commendation. These girls are truly exemplary, and we are honored to accept this gift!”

Erin and Rachel present check to Executive Director Ashley Jeffrey

Erin and Rachel present check to Executive Director Ashley Jeffrey

See also New York Nonprofit Press