Climber’s legacy includes school in Nepal

Source: Ottawa Citizens – Nov 19 2006

Sarah Weigum, Ottawa Citizen
Published: Sunday, November 19, 2006

After a year of fundraising, friends of Sean Egan have almost raised enough money to build a Kathmandu school in memory of the University of Ottawa professor who died while climbing Mount Everest.

“Because Sean was not only really attached to Nepal and the Nepalese people, but was also an educator, it made a lot of sense to do this in his honour,” says Gerry Gaetz, director of Ad Astra, an organization established this spring with the purpose of raising $150,000 for the school.

So far, golf days, dinner events, a photo exhibition and other smaller fundraisers have brought in $130,000 for the cause.

With the summit in sight, the Ad Astra charity has launched a new fundraising push, asking individuals, organizations and schools to “buy a brick” for $100.

“We’re looking for innovative ways to get people involved in building the school,” says Tim Redpath, also with Ad Astra.

Ad astra, which means “aim high” in Latin, was a personal motto of Mr. Egan, a human kinetics professor who lived a life dedicated to fitness and well-being. He was born in Ireland, where he pursued his university education and amateur boxing. He moved to Almonte in 1977.

Mr. Egan died of heart failure in April 2005 at the age of 63 while making a bid to be the oldest Canadian to reach the summit of the world’s highest peak. But his journey to Nepal wasn’t just for the thrill of setting a record. He also visited an orphanage in Kathmandu, purchasing a keyboard, sports equipment and school supplies for the children.

“They’re desperately short of bowls, pens and paper pads, things we take for granted over here,” says Mr. Redpath.

Construction is already under way on the school, which is being built by Child Haven International, a Canadian charity founded in 1985 with the goal of providing basic needs and emotional support to destitute women and children in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Tibet. The school will be built on the same site as the orphanage, providing a place of education for the 125 children who live there.

While in Nepal, Mr. Egan and fellow climbers had discussed the possibility of raising money for the school upon their return to Canada.

Mr. Gaetz was with Mr. Egan in Nepal. Together they visited the orphanage, climbed to base camp and played the world’s highest hockey game. He hopes that more people will join Ad Astra in bringing some good out of the tragedy of Mr. Egan’s death.

Everyone who purchases a brick can give students a message of encouragement and support, which will be inscribed on a plaque at the school. As well, donors will receive a glass brick of their own with an etching of the Ad Astra logo. Fifty-five bricks have been purchased to date.

“He was a man dedicated to education and living life to the full,” says Mr. Redpath, “so we want to give the disadvantaged kids a chance to live their lives to the full, like Sean did.”

Bricks can be purchased by visiting the Ad Astra website at All money raised goes directly to Child Haven.
(C) Ottawa Citizen

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