MOORE, Okla. – More than seven months after deadly tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma, one man is making sure the victims and survivors are not forgotten by taking them to the top of the world.
Ryan Kushner watched the May 20 tornado tear through Moore from his Denver, Colorado home. The mountaineer and storm chaser was packing to climb Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America.
“To watch tornadoes just rip into Oklahoma City when . . . people that I knew were being affected by it, it really hurt.” Kushner said. “And it felt selfish for me to go on a trip to Alaska for three weeks when I knew friends from the storm chasing community, one of my other crazy hobbies, were down there really suffering.”
Two weeks later, Kushner summited. He carried a laminated picture of the destruction of Moore with him for more than 20,000 feet as a way to honor victims and survivors.
‘That was kind of the point of it.” He said. “Hey I’m at the top of North America and you guys are basically not forgotten.”
What he didn’t know then was another round of storms had hit Oklahoma again on May 31. When he got back, Kushner posted the picture to Facebook and it went viral.
Since then, Kushner teamed up with Serve Moore to use his next climb to raise money for tornado victims.
“May 20, one of the darkest days in Moore history. But the overwhelming response of generosity and love and compassion from people all over the world. . . Ryan Kushner is one of those guys.” Moore resident Rob Morris said.
Morris has been helping coordinate things between Kushner and Serve Moore.
Now Kushner is just days out from climbing Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere at over 22,000 feet. Kushner and his team will tackle the most dangerous route up the mountain. The Polish Direct claims lives every year.
“January is when he’ll be climbing.” Morris said. “He’s still thinking about Moore, he’s still thinking about people in need. And to me, that’s powerful.”
The trip will take weeks to complete, battling dangerous terrain, severe weather, and hundred-mile-an-hour winds. Once again, Kushner will carry a sign for Oklahoma, on a mission that is now more important to him than just reaching the top.
“We still care.” Kushner said. “It’s been 6 or 7 months but you guys aren’t forgotten down there.”
Kushner leaves December 31. His team won’t need oxygen tanks but it will be extremely hard to breath so they will have to keep an eye on each other to make sure no one gets sick.
Kushner also hopes to eventually climb Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at almost 30,000 feet above sea level.
Kushner is hoping to raise $100 for every thousand feet they climb.
To donate to Kushner’s fundraising efforts for tornado victims, click here and put “Ryan Kushner” as the name.
To follow Ryan Kushner’s progress as he starts the climb Click here.