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Justin Abrams To Climb Mount Kilimanjaro For Autism

Island Rock will host ‘Climb for a Cause’ for Spectrum Designs May 19

When Justin Abrams first visited Island Rock Indoor Rock Climbing in Plainview, it looked like his introduction to the sport was going to have to wait; it was 9 p.m., and the place was shut down tight. However, the 7-year-old from Dix Hills wasn’t in the mood to take no for an answer. He wanted to climb, and he wanted to climb now.

“As a little kid does, I ran up to the front door and started banging on the door, and the manager actually came out and saw that I was…literally in my pajamas,” remembered Abrams. Impressed by such enthusiasm, the manager put the pajama-clad Abrams in a harness and let the child climb, free of charge, all over the rock walls in the empty gym late into the night.

Now, 16 years later, Abrams is still climbing. In fact, he has set his sights on ascending one of the world’s most impressive peaks, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the tallest mountain in Africa and the largest free-standing mountain in the world. Presumably, he won’t be in his pajamas, but he will be raising money for Spectrum Design, a nonprofit enterprise located in Port Washington that employs people with autistic spectrum disorders to create custom-made decorated T-shirts and apparel.

For Abrams, who works in financial services when he’s not hitting the rocks, climbing is the ultimate sport. In addition to providing a challenging workout for the body and an engaging puzzle for the mind, it lends a satisfying sense of reality to the often metaphorical struggle to make it to the top: when Abrams stands at the top of a mountain, the feeling of achievement cannot be denied.

“The pain in your fingertips, the lactic buildup of every muscle in your body, and to accomplish something that is just the culmination of getting to the top…,” Abrams mused about his passion. “For me, it’s just the No. 1 sport I participate in.” Which is saying something for this athletic 23-year-old, since he also engages in whitewater canoeing, mountain biking and snowboarding.

Abrams was alerted to the possibility of climbing Kilimanjaro more or less by accident. Earlier this year, he was browsing an entertainment website when he came across an interesting headline: “High Resolution Atop Mount Kilimanjaro.” “My heart pounded, my eyes widened, the opportunity to continue onward and upward in pursuit of my passion was right there, one click away,” he said.

However, Abrams wanted to make his climb a memorable event for more than just one person. He soon started thinking about Spectrum Designs, a sub-organization of the Nicholas Center for Autism co-founded by one of his friends, Patrick Bardsley. In very little time, Abrams and a team at Spectrum had organized “Spectrum Climbs Kilimanjaro,” a fundraiser that has already raised $18,000 for the Spectrum Designs Foundation.

With approximately 1 in 88 children diagnosed with disorders on the autism spectrum, Abrams feels that autism is an issue that touches everyone. While no one in his immediate family is autistic, there are children with the disorder among his cousins and extended family.

“Autism effects everyone, in some way, shape or form,” said Abrams. “It really is just a very prevalent disorder in the community.” He hopes his Kilimanjaro trek will not only raise funds that will allow Spectrum to keep providing employment and valuable experience to autistic individuals, but will also raise awareness of the challenges faced by those with autism in general.

However, even for a consummate outdoorsman like Abrams, Kilimanjaro is no casual hike. Despite being one of the world’s most accessible high summits, requiring little equipment to climb successfully, the peak is still 19,336 feet above sea level. A journey that starts out in the forests of Northern Tanzania, near the town of Moshi, becomes increasingly desolate as the vegetation disappears. By the last leg of the climb, the African climate has given way to a world of ice and snow. Among other problems, many climbers succumb to altitude sickness when they try to ascend too quickly.

“It’s what’s called a non-technical climb. It’s definitely very, very difficult, but people really do underestimate it,” said Abrams, acknowledging the common problem with altitude sickness. However, the climber says he isn’t concerned about this particular risk. “It definitely does happen, but for me personally I have a lot of experience and a lot of control.”

In order to make sure he’s prepared for the climb, Abrams has started an aggressive training regiment, including lots of cardio exercise. He also climbs in the Adirondacks in upstate New York nearly every weekend. Perhaps most importantly, he spends time several days a week in a high-altitude simulation training compression chamber, courtesy of Hypoxico, a company that specializes in simulating high-altitude conditions for athletic training. The chamber provides oxygen-reduced air, allowing Abrams’ body to adjust to high-altitude conditions before he even boards the plane to Tanzania.

As Abrams prepares for his trip to Africa, which begins May 26, those interested in contributing to the project will have the opportunity to do so. “Climb For A Cause” on May 19 at Island Rock at 60 Skyline Drive in Plainview will feature a meet-and-greet with Abrams, (optional) climbing for anyone over the age of 6, refreshments and giveaways. The suggested donation is $25, and all funds will go to the Spectrum Designs Foundation. The event will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more information about these fundraisers, or to donate to Spectrum Climbs Kilimanjaro, visit http://spectrumclimbs.eventbrite.com/.

Furthermore, everyone is encouraged to help spread the word. “Even if you’re not in a position to donate, it’s totally understandable, but if you could just spread the word among your local community, family and friends,” said Abrams. Easy enough to do: “Did you hear about the guy who’s climbing Kilimanjaro?” makes for a good conversation starter.

News

Bring your four-legged friends—in costume if they’d like—to roam Old Westbury Gardens during ‘Dog Days.’ Twice a year canines are welcome to accompany their (leashed) humans around the grounds of the mansion, and this is Fido’s last shot until spring. On Sunday, enjoy exhibits from rescue groups and animal welfare organizations from 1 to 4 p.m. A dog costume contest and parade takes place at 3 p.m. All activities included with admission: $8, $5 for seniors and $3 for children ages 7 to 17. At 71 Old Westbury Rd., Westbury, Saturday, Oct. 25 and Sunday, Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tel: 516-333-0048.


Mentorship is one of those goals rotary clubs strive for, particularly when it comes to grooming future community business leaders. Nowhere was this more important than when the most recent Farmingdale Breakfast Rotary meeting’s guests were Stanley Pelech, director of Integrated Academic and Technical studies and Jodi Haniquet, advisor of the Farmingdale High School (FHS) Interact club. Interact is Rotary International’s service club for young people. The Farmingdale Breakfast Rotary is the sponsor of the 75-plus student strong high school club. Advisor Jodi Haniquet reported to Rotary club members what  fundraising events the Interact Club will participate in for the 2015 school year. The service group will once again team with FHS student government in a food drive – donations collected for Island Harvest pantries. They will also participate in Ronald McDonald house dinner program – cooking and serving meals on the premises in New Hyde Park for the many families staying at the residence while their seriously ill children receive treatment at nearby hospitals.


Sports

The Farmingdale State College Women’s Volleyball team earned a three-set victory of York in a non-conference match on Oct. 8. 

 

Tied 4-4 in the opening set, Farmingdale State freshman defensive specialist Gina Giacalone served for 14 consecutive points to extend the advantage 18-4. The Rams cruised to a 25-8 victory in the first set. 

Farmingdale team wins annual Bethpage Ocean to Sound Race

On Sunday, Sept. 28, the Farmingdale-based Runner’s Edge team earned first place overall in the 29th annual Bethpage Ocean to Sound Relay. The team, representing the Runner’s Edge running and multisport specialty store located at 242 Main St. in Farmingdale, consisted of Boyd Carrington, Andrew Coelho, Nick Pampena, Tim Lee, Shawn Anderson, Ryan Healy, Kevin Galante, and Brandon Abasolo. It completed the 50-mile course from Jones Beach State Park to Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay in 4 hours, 41 minutes, 58 seconds. The runners won by a margin of more than 10 minutes over the runner-up team from the Sayville & Smithtown Running Company, with much of the difference supplied by the strong Leg 2 performance by Andrew Coelho. Runner’s Edge Teams also took second place honors in the Mixed Open and Men’s Masters Divisions of the Relay. The Relay was sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union (“Built to Give You More”), with new Race Directors Glen Wolther and Keith Montgomery managing the event for the host Greater Long Island Running Club.


Calendar

Women's Club of Farmingdale - October 16

Board of Trustees Work Session - October 20

Jack O'Lantern Extravaganza - November 2


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