Naperville climber's Alaska trek raises $20,000 for outdoors nonprofit
Naperville's Lucy Westlake didn't reach her goal of ascending to the summit of Mount Denali in Alaska.
But the 13-year-old's climb had a second purpose, beyond an attempt to make her the youngest girl to reach the highest point in all 50 states.
Lucy and her father, Rodney Westlake, partnered with the Outdoors Empowered Network to make the climb that concluded Sunday a fundraiser for efforts to connect kids with the outdoors.
The network, based in California, operated an auction during Lucy's 20-day climb and sent participants text messages with updates on her progress. The auction and social media efforts, led by the Facebook page Denali for Lucy, raised more than $20,000, said Kyle MacDonald, executive director of the Outdoors Empowered Network.
Half the proceeds will go to offset the cost of Lucy's climb, for which the Outdoors Empowered Network donated gear. The other half will support programs the network operates in cities such as Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle to train teachers to take students outdoors and provide gear for use during field trips.
The partnership went beyond fundraising, too, as Lucy and her father were joined on the climb by two ambassadors for the Outdoors Empowered Network, Zak Klein and Hannah Quimby.
MacDonald said he hopes Lucy's climb will encourage people to unplug and head into nature, whether it's a major mountain like Denali or a short trail in the suburbs.
"Kids like Lucy are kind of one in a million, but she inspires the rest of us to do stuff outdoors. That could mean near or far, big adventures or small adventures," MacDonald said. "It can benefit everyone."