I’ve always been drawn to underdog stories.
In love, sports and life I’m captivated by the characters that, against all odds, surface to the top to show the world that the world had it all wrong.
For those who believe the underdog is confined to the lines of a Hollywood script, I invite you to meet my neighbor and good friend Eli Reimer.
Last year, Eli (who will turn 17 this June) became the youngest person ever with Down Syndrome to reach Base Camp at Mt. Everest–a feat that many people weren’t sure was possible. A feat that most of the world would believe unthinkable.
Here’s an epic short video highlighting last year’s trek…
Here are a few images from the Everest Trek, taken by my good friend and talented photographer/designer Gary Christenson:
From Eli’s birth, it’s been clear that the descriptive word “disability” would be better served without the “dis.” When you spend time with Eli, you know he’s much more about the “ability” in life.
Had Eli been born in another country, perhaps in a developing nation, the likelihood that he would have survived to his first birthday would be much smaller. The likelihood that he would often leave his house–small as well. The likelihood that he would have reached one of the highest points on Earth, in better shape than the rest of his team, unimaginable.
It seams as though Eli Reimer was born in this time, in this place for a purpose. To serve notice to the world that there is more ability in disability and not only can those with special needs be a productive part of society–they can reach the highest of peaks, inspiring others to do the same.
The world’s largest minority, roughly 15% of the world’s population, are those who live with disability. According to the UN “Enable” program, roughly one billion people live with disability. Statistics are staggering and heartbreaking concerning those with special needs. According to UNICEF, some 30% of street youth have some form of disability. Women and young girls with disability are vulnerable to abuse, and in some countries, mortality rates among the disabled are as high as 80%. The UK’s Department of International Development believes that in many cases, these children are being “weeded out”–permanently silenced.
It’s partly because of these statistics that Eli’s parents, Justin and Tamara Reimer, founded The Elisha Foundation. They work globally with children and families who live with disability by equipping the indigenous church and organizations to help meet the needs of the vulnerable. I’ve seen their work firsthand both here in Oregon as well as in the country of Ukraine and I can tell you their work is much needed.
Last year, an estimated 40 million people saw Eli’s Base Camp story on the news. CNN, the Today Show and BBC (amongst others) carried the news of Eli’s achievement and inspired many to examine the mountains in their own life, to see how they might be conquered. The success in raising awareness for those with special needs from a foundation standpoint was overwhelming and the Elisha Foundation board voted to trek again, this year to Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
You can learn more about the trek and the roughly 20 trekkers here at the Trek website.
From a storytelling and inspirational standpoint, it became obvious that this story–and the many accompanying stories that have surfaced since, need to be shared with the world.
I’m excited to announce that our media non-profit Emote360 will be partnering with the Elisha Foundation to shoot a documentary film surrounding the trek to Mt. Kilimanjaro. The goal for the film is simple: Tell the inspiring story of Eli and his friends as they climb to the highest point in Africa and back, each one dealing with their own personal disabilities. Along the way, we’ll tell the story of key characters pre and post trip, and hopefully document a historic workshop on disability in a remote part of Kenya, reaching those who live with disability that have never been reached.
We want this story to go viral. We’ll be entering into a number of film festivals and hope that someday people can be inspired as they scroll through Netflix or Amazon and find the story of Eli and his friends.
Production and filming have started but please hear me when I say that this cannot happen without your help.
We’re seeking $45,000 to film this documentary to accommodate for multiple airline tickets, gear and personal expenses for a crew of three people.
We’re shooting this pro-bono because we believe in the power of the story–any funding not used for production will go directly to the Elisha Foundation to help them do what they do best.
While we have a fundraising video under production, we have decided not to use the crowd funding service Kickstarter as they release funds only if 100% of the goal is funded. In our eyes, 90% is better than 0%.
How can you help?
- Go to our Emote360 PayPal account, located below. You can make your donation, specify what it’s to be used for (gear, airline, general) and within a few business days you’ll receive an email and receipt from our book keeper for tax purposes.
- If you are a photographer: You can donate a session (or two or three) by doing the following: Have your client donate to our PayPal account in the amount of your sessions fee. Once they receive their receipt from PayPal and show you, you can then book their session. Or, you can simply donate your session fee from your business so you can receive a tax donation receipt. This is such an easy way to give and allows your clients to be a part of the story.
- If you are a photographer / media professional who would like to donate gear, you may contact me personally so we can discuss our needs: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Organize an event, sell raffle tickets, etc. These events are great because they not only raise funds, but awareness. If this interests you, let me know…
- If you are a business owner that would like to help sponsor the film, there are a number of ways this can be accomplished and you’ll receive mention in the film credits.
- Pray/send good energy and vibes our way!
- Visit the Trek website here and spread the word about the cause and support the trekkers in their fundraising efforts.
- Have an idea? Let us know!
Our backers will receive the following:
$10-$25 A mention in the film credits
$30-$50 A mention in the film credits and a “Eli to 19,341″ t-shirt
$55-$100 A mention in the film credits, ”Eli to 19,341″ t-shirt, a 5×7 post card after the trip, signed by Eli.
$125-$500 A mention in the film credits, ”Eli to 19,341″ t-shirt, a 5×7 post card after the trip, signed by Eli, and a signed hard copy of the DVD.
$525-$2500 A premiere sponsor mention in the film credits, ”Eli to 19,341″ t-shirt, a 5×7 post card after the trip, signed by Eli, signed hard copy of the DVD, and a signed movie poster.
$2750-$5000 A premiere sponsor mention in the film credits, ”Eli to 19,341″ t-shirt, a 5×7 post card after the trip, signed by Eli, signed hard copy of the DVD, a signed movie poster and a three nights stay at the Oxford Hotel in Bend, Oregon for the movie’s premiere.
I humbly ask you to help us share with the world a larger story of disability and the “ability” that can come from reaching the summit of our own mountains.
Benjamin Edwards, Director/Producer
Christy has been, and continues to be, a light in our community.
She’s helped us reach our goal with special projects in Africa, gives of her time, and is an overall blessing to everyone she comes in contact with.
Please enjoy a few of our favorite moments with her and Tom, friends and family…
Assisted by the amazing :: Heidi Swoboda @ Swoboda Photography in Leavenworth, Washington.
BBQ :: Nordic Smoke
Coffee :: (important) J5 Coffee
DJ :: DJ Slick Productions
Additional Music :: Icicle Brass Quintet
Floral:: Joni Firth email@example.com
Hair and Makeup :: Krissy Rawley Gunether
Location :: Leavenworth Festhalle