Father-and-son climb raises $20K for hospital

Mark Miller (left) and his son Evan standing on Mount Rucu Pichincha in Ecuador.  (Credit: Mark Miller)
Mark Miller (left) and his son Evan standing on Mount Rucu Pichincha in Ecuador. (Credit: Mark Miller)

Southold resident and businessman Mark Miller called the experience “life-changing” for him and his 19-year-old son, Evan.

In January, the duo set out to scale Ecuador’s three highest mountains. The excursion resulted in a stronger bond between father and son — that and a generous donation to Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport. 

Mr. Miller, president of Miller Environmental Group in Calverton, said their trip started out as a way for him and his son to spend quality time together. They talked about it for more than year before deciding mountain climbing was the best option for them. After all, Mr. Miller, now in his mid-50s, and his father some years ago had conquered Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro.

A longtime supporter of ELIH, Mr. Miller also used the trip as a way to donate to the hospital through its 2015 Fitness Challenge. The campaign called on people to walk 10,000 steps a day in honor of the hospital’s 110-year anniversary, or to donate to the annual appeal.

Before departing for Ecuador, the Millers pledged to donate a dollar to ELIH for each foot they climbed.

“When I learned about the fitness challenge it just sounded like a really great opportunity to support the hospital and do it in a little bit of a different way,” Mr. Miller said. “I wanted to put a little bit of pressure on Evan and myself. We weren’t just climbing for the experience or the personal challenge anymore, it was going to be a vehicle to bring attention to what the hospital is trying to get people to do. We pushed very hard to get as many feet in altitude as we could.”

Evan, an avid athlete, didn’t have to change his fitness routine too much before the climb, he said. The elder Mr. Miller, on the other hand, said he amped up his exercise routine in preparation for the journey, running or hiking up to 10 miles day on the beach wearing roughly 40 pounds of mountain climbing gear.

When the Millers traveled to the Andes Mountains and climbed Mt. Cotopaxi, Mt. Iliniza Norte and Mt. Rucu Pichincha, they learned a lot about each other along the way.

A defining moment on the trip came during one difficult climb when Mr. Miller became ill with hypoxia and his son stepped up to get him to safety.

“It was an interesting experience to see him being concerned and anticipating my stumbles,” Mr. Miller said. “For the first time in my life, my son was protecting me. I can’t think of a better thing for us to have experienced.”

By the end of the adventure, they had trekked 20,000 feet and committed to donating $20,000 to ELIH.

And the Millers are not the only ones who have scaled mountains to benefit the hospital.

In October, ELIH CEO Paul Connor and Dr. Anthony Mitarotondo, the hospital’s chief of radiology, trekked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in a kickoff effort to motivate others to take up the campaign challenge. They made the round-trip, 19,341-foot climb in just six days.

“We thought we’d keep the theme going,” Mr. Miller joked.

So far the hospital has raised $200,000 toward its goal of $330,000, according to ELIH spokesperson Eileen Solomon. The campaign wraps up in September.

The hospital plans to accept the Millers $20,000 check during its annual Grateful Gathering Friday, April 17. The event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at Sparkling Pointe in Southold. Hors d’oeuvres, sparkling wine and local craft beer will be served.

Mr. Connor and Dr. Mitarotondo will give a photographic presentation about their climb entitled “Trekking Up Africa’s Highest Peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro.”

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