Survivor of ‘Miracle on Hudson’ Plans Kilimanjaro Climb To Benefit Kilimanjaro Education Foundation

CHARLOTTE, NC, April 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — It seems like everyone has a bucket list today, but not everyone has a great reason for creating one.

In January of 2009, Barry Leonard was a passenger on USAirways Flight 1549, involved in an incident which became known as the Miracle on the Hudson when Captain Chesley Sullenberger made the split second decision to land the plane in the Hudson River after it took on a flock of Canada geese in its engines, losing power in both.

The incident made Leonard take stock in his life and reevaluate his own bucket list, which includes an August 2013 climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro with his son, Matthew and two good friends, Richard and Matthew Gershen, another father-son team.

“After the plane crash, I better understood the importance of time, but also the importance of doing things today and not waiting until tomorrow,” said Leonard, a Charlotte, NC resident who is president/CEO of home textiles company Welspun USA. “I always thought these things would be what I will do ‘someday’ but that has all changed.”

Leonard, who is a graduate of the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University, and who was recently selected as Textile Leader of the Year by the students, will help raise funds with his climb for the Kilimanjaro Education Foundation, a nonprofit volunteer organization with a mission to provide African children the same educational opportunities as children in developed countries. Funds raised from his climb will help build school facilities and also furnish library books to a new library an hour outside of Arusha.

With an August climb scheduled, Leonard has begun training in earnest, riding a stationary bike and running on a treadmill. He has also started hiking in the local hills of North Carolina to be followed by hiking Mount Mitchell, which is the tallest mountain in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. He also hopes to do some hiking in Utah closer to the date.

“There are things you want to do together in life with a son and this is one of them,” he said. “Since the plane crash, I’ve gone through a lot of stages. I know a lot of people say ‘it was four years ago, that should be behind you,’ but I’m in a search for spirituality stage. For me that is a huge part of what this climb is all about.”

His preparation isn’t only in physical training as Leonard has purchased more than a half dozen books and is spending a lot of time reading about Kilimanjaro.

“I am looking to get a vision in my head of what it looks like and every day it gains more clarity,” he added. “I am focused on succeeding. I plan on getting to the top. This is truly all about the journey.”

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About KEF
Kilimanjaro Education Foundation (KEF), ( founded in 2006, is incorporated in New York State and organized as a 501&40;c&41;(3). KEF strives to improve education and to build school facilities for underprivileged children in Tanzania and other countries bordering Kilimanjaro. KEF’s volunteers and directors share in and impart not only the Foundation’s passion for children and education, but also in KEF’s core values of honesty, integrity, creativity and imagination.

Jeff Durosko