Climbing for kids

Walter “Wally” Glover’s efforts to help children in Jennings, Lawrence and Washington counties have led him over and around the mountains in the United States, Africa, Europe, Russia and Argentina.

During the past five years, he has used his athletic ability to raise more than $125,000 for the 2Trek4Kids Fund. Glover created the fund in 2009 to help establish St. Vincent Hospital’s health and wellness programs, called LIFE, at three southern Indiana hospitals: Jennings Hospital in North Vernon, St. Vincent Salem and St. Vincent Dunn in Bedford.

LIFE stands for Lifetime Individual Fitness Eating and is designed to prevent and treat childhood obesity. It is a program of activities and education for children ages 2 to 18.

Glover, a Columbus resident, retired as a St. Vincent Hospital chaplain in 2013, when he was 65. His last assignment was as the pastoral chaplain at the Salem and Bedford hospitals. He previously served as chaplain at St. Vincent Jennings.

Through his work as a chaplain, Glover became aware of the childhood obesity problem in Indiana.

Glover said it his Aunt Angie Meno made him aware of the problems that come with childhood obesity.

“She had suffered with childhood obesity, but she changed her life and she overcame it. She died at the age of 95 after a fun day of playing golf. She really impressed me with the need for a lifelong pursuit of physical fitness,” Glover said.

Following his aunt’s advice, Glover established early his own healthy lifestyle patterns. He had completed more than 50 mini-marathons and 60,000 miles of cycling by 2007 when, at 59, he discovered mountain climbing and made his first climb up Mount Everest.

Before climbing Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro in 2009, Glover decided to use his mountain climbing as a fundraising tool to help establish programs to help children find the joy of physical fitness. He established 2Trek4Kids and offered donors the opportunity to donate a $1 for every mile of climbing he completed.

He also carried the St. Vincent Hospital banner to the peak of each mountain he climbed. Glover climbed Russia’s Mount Elbrus in 2010 and Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko in 2011. By the time he climbed Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua in 2012, Glover had raised $92,000 for the LIFE program.

It was a climb on Mount Rainier that posed his greatest obstacle. In September 2012, Glover fell and broke his ribs. The fall probably saved his life because after descending the mountain he went for X-rays at a Washington hospital, where it was discovered that he had three aneurysms on his aorta artery.

He returned to Indiana for open-heart surgery at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.

“The fall was a gift. If they had not discovered the aneurysms, I probably would have died as my brother and dad had died,” Glover said.

Following his surgery Glover completed a rigorous cardiovascular rehabilitation regimen. By October this year, Glover was medically cleared for his next big adventure: the 490-mile long Camino Pilgrimage of St. James in Spain.

Beginning at the Pyrenees Mountains in September, Glover walked and climbed across Spain for nearly six weeks. Though he had a short medical delay, he successfully completed his journey at the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostela.

“People have been making this pilgrimage for hundreds of years,” Glover said. “It is an annual spiritual journey, not an athletic event. St. James was an apostle of Christ. His bones are buried in the cathedral. It was a very moving event.”

At the completion of his trek through Spain, Glover had successfully increased donations to the LIFE program to $125,000.

“We would not have the LIFE program if it had not been for Mr. Glover,” program director Jackie Kramer said. “The medical tests and materials for the program are expensive, and we are on a very tight budget. The money he has raised helps make it affordable to all people regardless of their income.”

More than 100 youngsters have completed the LIFE program, Kramer said.

“One of the most rewarding outcomes of the program is that almost everyone has a sizable decrease in their blood sugar count. That is very important for a person’s health. It can make a difference in their health for the rest of their life. It is a good program,” Kramer said.

Glover said he is still in the process of unpacking from his trip through Spain but will return to his volunteer work at Our Hospice of South Central Indiana in Columbus and as a bereavement counselor.

He also plans to finish a book detailing his worldly and spiritual journeys.