After months of intense preparation and training, Darryl Traweek thought he was as ready as he’d ever be to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
But when he first set eyes on the towering, 20,000-foot-tall mountain, he started to question if he would actually be able to make it to the top.
He took his first step, followed by another, and another. And when physical and mental exhaustion began to take over, his guide, a native of Tanzania, gave Traweek a bit of advice: “Only up.” This became Traweek’s mantra both on the climb and with other challenges he would face in life.
“It really hit home to me that life is about attitude over altitude,” says Traweek, director of RBC Wealth Management’s West Division. “We are in charge of doing our very best in all situations, whether that’s in our personal or professional lives.”
Never one to shy away from a challenge deemed impossible by many, Traweek decided to take on the ultimate physical and mental adventure after he was inspired by former RBC Wealth Management CEO Dick McFarland, who had previously led a group to climb Kilimanjaro.
While he initially planned to tackle Kilimanjaro alone, Traweek quickly amassed a group of supporters, including Pat Elliott, director of RBC Wealth Management’s Bainbridge Island, Wash., branch, and his wife Kellie, who decided to join Traweek on the climb.
Darryl Traweek (left) and Pat Elliott (right) climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Touched by how many people around him took an interest in his journey, Traweek decided to dedicate his climb to a greater purpose: to raise money on behalf of Susan G. Komen through their fundraising platform in honor of his father and three friends who passed away from cancer.
Susan G. Komen has a “Bold Goal” to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50 percent in the U.S. by 2026. The nonprofit is honoring those that are doing more—like Traweek—for their fight in breast cancer, calling them More Than Pink heroes.
“You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has not been directly affected by cancer personally, in their family, with a friend or co-worker,” Traweek says. “As a company, we’re dedicated to helping individuals and families with their financial health and to be good stewards of their current and future financial resources. That responsibility can and should carry over into how we can help make an impact in other important aspects of people’s lives and in our communities.”
Celebrating every donation big or small, Traweek shared his story of determination to anyone who would listen. Before he knew it, he had raised more than $109,000. As a result, Traweek was honored by Susan G. Komen as the organization’s top online fundraiser for 2016.
On his nine-day trek up Kilimanjaro, Traweek encountered snow, ice, rain, freezing temperatures and steep climbs. Through each new obstacle, he continued to repeat “only up” in his head and thought of all the people who donated to his cause. From them he drew the strength to keep going.
When Traweek and his fellow climbers finally saw the sign that indicated they reached their goal—the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro—he broke off from the group to take it all in.
As he stood there, reflecting on his hard work over the previous months and the goal he had finally reached, Traweek received a message on his satellite phone from the widow of a former colleague and friend who had passed away from cancer. She had been tracking his journey and wanted to make a donation in the amount needed to reach his fundraising goal in honor of her late husband, Tim Rannow, who was the director of RBC Wealth Management’s Phoenix complex. Her donation officially brought the grand total donations over the $100,000 goal.
For Traweek, climbing Kilimanjaro wasn’t simply a personal accomplishment. It was a journey of purpose. And the call he received at the top of the mountain affirmed that.
“I’m grateful to all those who supported me in my Kilimanjaro journey and hope that the dollars we raised will help in the fight against cancer,” Traweek says. “Reaching the top of Kilimanjaro was both a physical and a mental challenge that speaks to what I believe we’re all trying to do each and every day—to be better, stronger, healthier and more supportive of one another as we each try to reach our summit.”
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