It’s not just when David McCampbell is talking about two of his favorite activities—volunteering and mountain-climbing—that his eyes sparkle. He is just a person who is passionate about what he does and shows it.
With his broad shoulders, narrow waist and physique of an Olympic skier or swimmer, he resembles much more a man of 33 than his current age of 63. And there is that permanent twinkle in his eyes that is perhaps his most arresting feature.
Recently retired after nearly years of work as a mental health counselor and human resources professional, including 29 years at AT&T, McCampbell, a lifelong native of West Palm Beach, decided he wanted to climb mountains.
“In 2016, when I decided I would retire the following year, I began looking at what I would do in the first few years of retirement. I wanted to do missionary work, travel outside of North America for the first time, and do something really challenging physically and mentally,” McCampbell says.
To help fund his climbing and to “give back” while doing it, McCampbell came up with the idea of forming a private charity organization called Climb7Summits4Haiti, which provides relief to displaced and poor citizens of that country, and is funded by grants and private donations. In return, McCampbell is climbing the highest mountain on each continent. He recently returned from climbing Mt. Vinson at the South Pole and Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic, and he is setting out at the end of March to climb Mt. Everest.
“The mission of Climb7Summits4Haiti.org is to empower the people of Haiti to financially support themselves and eventually become independent of outside financial assistance. It does this primarily through assisting Haitian grassroots efforts that help the people of Haiti become financially independent. All funds donated to climb7summits4haiti go directly to such efforts,” he says.
“My training began in early 2016 and in May of 2017 I climbed and summitted my first mountain as a training event, the 14,410-foot Mt. Rainer in Washington state. This was followed in July 2017 by summitting Mt. Elbrus in Russia, the first of the Seven Summits, Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia October 2017, Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia in November 2017, the North Pole in April 2018, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in July 2018, and Mt. Vinson and the South Pole in Antarctica in December 2018,” he explains.
“My successful climb to Kilimanjaro’s summit followed an unsuccessful summit attempt in August 2017 after I came down with a stomach infection that left me too weak to complete the climb. I also attempted unsuccessfully to summit Aconcagua in Argentina (January 2018) and Denali in Alaska (June 2018) and will make a second summit attempt of these mountains in January and June of 2020, respectively,” he continues.
In between climbs, McCampbell “trains like crazy,” as he puts it. When he is not training or on one of his climbs, he devotes a great deal of his time to other volunteer projects in West Palm Beach, especially to his local chapter of Kiwanis International.
McCampbell will be spending approximately three months in Nepal during his bid for Everest beginning the third week of March.
Like many ultra-athletes, McCampbell is anything but boastful about his accomplishments; instead, he is refreshingly modest and self-effacing.
“There are times when I am [climbing] when I pause for a moment and ask myself, “What am I doing here?” he muses.
For more information on Climb7Summits4Haiti, or to make a donation, please visit: Climb7Summits4Haiti.org.
Lee Daniels, a former reporter for The Journal News, Reuters America, and The Westchester Guardian, is the author of two books, Poems From the Edge and To The Edge and Back: Selected Poems and Travel Essays. He is an MFA candidate at The University of the South.