Many of our alumni volunteer with U of T Engineering. In celebration of National Engineering Month, we turn the spotlight on those that go the extra mile by volunteering in the greater community. From climbing one of the Seven Summits for charity to surgical education and research in Africa, our alumni are passionate about giving back. This story is the second of a five-part series.
Claire Kennedy (ChemE 8T9) has never held back when it comes to giving her time to both her alma mater and greater community, but this winter she reached new heights in her volunteerism.
In January 2016, Kennedy, along with a team of 16 other Canadian business people and eight Canadian soldiers, travelled to Antarctica to climb the 4,892-metre-high peak of Mount Vinson as part of the True Patriot Love Foundation’s fundraising event to support military charities and research across Canada.
Prior to the expedition, Kennedy said that the extent of her mountain-climbing experience included hiking the valley of Toronto’s Hogg’s Hollow neighbourhood and climbing the hill in Centennial Park — not quite on par with scaling one of the world’s Seven Summits. But the cause behind True Patriot Love Foundation’s trip was reason enough for her to embrace the 10-day challenge.
“What really sold it for me was that this particular trip was dedicated to supporting mental health and well-being transition services for veterans,” she said. “To hear the soldiers talk about comrades who physically survived Afghanistan or Kosovo only to come home and commit suicide — that’s a casualty as well. These soldiers have families. It’s really heartbreaking. To me, that’s an injury that can be remediated and we have to do a lot more to heal those wounds.”
Kennedy, who is a partner at Bennett Jones LLP, committed to the trip in January 2015 and spent the year training in the gym. She would regularly hike with 40- to 60-pound barbell weights in a backpack.
By the time she left to embark on the journey, she had raised nearly $100,000 — double her personal fundraising goal.
“I can say it was truly one of the hardest things I have ever done but also it is one of best experiences of my life,” she said. “It was so affirming of the best of the human condition. To experience the level of camaraderie and really feeling very bonded to this group of people emotionally in virtually no time was a very powerful. I think everybody involved felt that.”
In the end, more than $1 million was donated to the charity.
Kennedy was featured in the 2014 edition of Skulematters for her volunteer efforts with U of T.
Looking to volunteer at U of T Engineering? There are many rewarding student-focused, Faculty-level and University-wide volunteer opportunities for alumni. Make a connection, share your experiences and inspire the next generation of engineers today.