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Jasonik
March 10th, 2006, 01:51 PM
02/22/06 http://www.thedailystar.com/logo.gif (http://www.thedailystar.com/news/stories/2006/02/22/everest8.html)

Area Surgeon to Make Second Try at Everest
http://www.climbingtocurechildhoodleukemia.com/everst.jpg
Father of child who died of leukemia using mountain trip to raise money

By Amy L. Ashbridge
Staff Writer

A local surgeon is attempting to climb Mount Everest again, and this time he’s doing it for a cause.

Dr. Kenneth D. Stalter, a general surgeon with Oneonta Surgical Associates, will be climbing the mountain to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Stalter’s daughter, Leah, died from childhood leukemia in 1991, he said Tuesday.

Stalter, 52, first attempted to climb Mount Everest in April 2004. (http://www.climbingtocurechildhoodleukemia.com/2004attempttoclimb.htm) Although Stalter was unable to make it to the summit then, he said he has been thinking about climbing it again.

"Why people climb mountains is a hard question, and always has been," Stalter said. "It’s the challenge, really."

Stalter said he’s hoping to accomplish something "useful" on this trip. The idea of climbing to raise money for a charity occurred to him within the past few months, he said.

He will leave March 27 and plans to climb the second week of April. There will be eight people in his group, Stalter said.

It is still hard to talk about Leah, who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 1½ years old and died just before her third birthday, Stalter said.
One of the things I learned from her is that when (children) have a good day, it is a good day," Stalter said. "They don’t worry about the bad day they had yesterday, or the bad day they’ll have tomorrow. They live in the present.

"I had a good day, and I’ll enjoy it," he said of the children’s thinking. "I try to pass that on to patients."

Stalter said he had been hesitant to do a climb in his daughter’s name for fear that he’d get in a situation where he’d place himself in danger.

"Now I can separate the two," Stalter said. "You can’t take unnecessary risks."

Stalter said he has about half a dozen sponsors for this trip, but is considering anyone who donates money — no matter how much the amount — a sponsor.

"When Leah was sick, the whole community stepped up to help us out," Stalter said. "Everyone pulled together. This is a way to give some support to someone else."

Maureen O’Brien-Thornton, executive director of the upstate New York-Vermont chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, said Stalter contacted the society about the climb and fundraising efforts.

"As far as I know, he’s the first person who’s done this for us," she said.

The society isn’t sponsoring Stalter or paying for any parts of his trip, O’Brien-Thornton said.

"He’s taking that all on himself," she said Tuesday.

Although money Stalter raises will go to the national Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and not to the local chapter, O’Brien-Thornton said, it does benefit people locally.

The local chapter gives more than $55,000 each year to patients and their families, O’Brien-Thornton said. That includes money to help with things that insurance won’t cover.

"There’s a lot we do with our chapter that would be funded with the money he gives us," O’Brien-Thornton said.

About 6,670 people in New York in 2005 had some form of blood cancer. There were 3,220 deaths from the disease that year, O’Brien-Thornton said.

Childhood leukemia has an 85 percent survival rate, O’Brien-Thornton said.

"It’s good, but it’s also bad," she said. "That’s why we need to put money into research to find a cure."

Stalter is accepting donations through a website, http://www.climbingtocurechildhoodleukemia.com.