North Central News

North Central’s Lydia Pond climbs for a cure

Oct 09, 2017

“I’ll take the mountain over the beach any day,” said Lydia Pond, North Central College’s coordinator of recreation and assistant athletic facilities and events manager.

Pond put those words to the test this past summer. She was selected to be one of 10 individuals to attempt a summit at Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, as part of a fundraising effort for Team Fox, which supports the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research.

Pond’s inspiration comes from her mother, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 40, when Pond was just 10 years old. “She isn’t one to talk about herself, but she was excited and kept texting me updates on the donations.

“Parkinson’s is a disease you fight alone a lot of the time,” said Pond. “I think my mom was grateful to bring some attention to this disease she’s been fighting for 20 years.”

Climbers had to raise $10,000 in donations to be selected for the trip, which Pond received within a week. “It was very humbling,” said Pond. “It’s a vulnerable thing to ask people for donations and share a personal story, but my friends and family rose to the occasion.”

While the trip may have been daunting, Pond was no stranger to travel and service. Since the start of her seven years on staff at the College, she has acted as a chaperone on two D-Term trips to Germany, as well as BREAKAWAY service trips to Kenya (photo below), Guatemala and Philadelphia.

To Pond, traveling is invaluable to students. “I didn’t study abroad in school but now I wish I had,” said Pond. “Every time you go somewhere you bring part of it home with you, which makes you a more rounded person.”

Her experience leading these trips helped when climbing Kilimanjaro. “We had situations on the mountain where I was able to rise up as a leader thanks to my experience with North Central,” said Pond.

Despite not knowing any members of the group before the trip, Pond grew close with the other climbers. “The only connection we might have had was that we loved somebody with Parkinson’s,” said Pond. “Now they text me every day.”

Pond sees service as a way for people to connect with strangers who have a common goal. “On service trips, it’s not about you, it’s about other people,” said Pond. “It’s a full week or more to not think about yourself, but instead think about someone else.”

These trips are opportunities for students to immerse themselves in a new culture, unplug from technology, and gain new perspectives while making a difference in other people’s lives.

“It’s good for people to think about others,” said Pond. “We get caught up in our own lives.”

The mountain challenged Pond, and although she had to turn back after making it within a day’s hike of the summit, Pond is not discouraged. “I think I left everything on the mountain, I don’t feel like I have unfinished business. I feel at peace about the whole experience,” said Pond. “At the end of the day it comes down to finding a cure.”

While Pond reached her $10,000 goal shortly after she started fundraising, she set a new personal goal of raising $15,000. Click here to donate to Pond’s cause or learn more about Team Fox.

To read more about Pond’s climb, check out the Naperville Sun/Chicago Tribune article here.

By Mark Mullane ’17/M ’19