UD student summits Kilimanjaro, raises $25,143

By: Peter Hohman – Staff Writer

Two years ago, University of Dayton senior mechanical engineering major Eric Oberwise was lying in a hospital bed with a life-threatening illness. Today he can say what very few people in the world can: that he successfully summited Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain on the African continent.

Oberwise’s climb helped raise funds for the nonprofit organization May We Help. The nonprofit states its mission is to help disabled and handicapped individuals through the use of specially invented devices designed to help them pursue their lives’ passions.

To date, Oberwise’s “Raising Kilimanjaro” campaign has raised $25,143 for May We Help, according to the organization’s website.

Oberwise said he attributes his passion for helping others to his near death experience. “Afterwards, I felt required to go and help other people,” Oberwise said.

Through May We Help, Oberwise met Katie Taylor, an architecture major at the University of Cincinnati and daughter of two UD professors.

In 2010, a skiing accident left Taylor with a broken back. She said doctors told her the injury would render her permanently unable to walk.

In August, Taylor accompanied Oberwise on the climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Oberwise said the climb presented its own unique set of difficulties.

He said there were times when the lack of sleep and high altitude made him feel “like his head was splitting open.”

On the first night, the group was walking through a rainforest on the side of the mountain when they were hit by torrential rain. “I was thinking ‘this is a terrible omen,’” Oberwise said. “But sure enough, five days later, we were at the top.”

He said the group experienced another setback on the expedition’s third night, when Taylor developed an infection and the group’s guide warned that they needed to find medication before Taylor’s illness progressed.

Oberwise said the following morning the group went on a search for the correct antibiotic to combat Taylor’s sickness.

He said they eventually found a dining hall on the mountain that was filled with climbers from all around the globe, and they asked if anyone had the antibiotic.

Fortunately, Oberwise said, they found a British ophthalmologist who had the medicine Taylor required.

On the sixth day, with the sun on their backs, the group summited Kilimanjaro’s peak. Oberwise said the experience of reaching the top of the mountain alongside Taylor was “surreal.”

“When I got there, it was probably one of the biggest feelings of accomplishment in my life,” Oberwise said. “Knowing that Katie did it was amazing.”

Since his climb, Oberwise said he has been working with May We Help on their new project, “the underwater walker,” a device designed to assist people undergoing physical therapy by employing a water-filled apparatus to move through.

Oberwise said he is tentatively planning to move to California for work and to found a new chapter of May We Help.

May We Help is releasing a documentary detailing Oberwise and Taylor’s climb, called “Raising Kilimanjaro.” It will be released this fall and all proceeds will go to the May We Help organization and its cause.

Eric Oberwise would like to thank the supporters of Raising Kilimanjaro: Pasta Chips, Matrix Service Company, The Rhodes Foundation, University of Dayton, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Roads Rivers and Trails and Autographer.
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