Chris Bombardier…. have you heard of him? He’s only the first person in history with hemophilia to have summited Mt. Everest (and the entire Seven Summits) and this is the third anniversary of his historic climb. Incredibly risky, incredibly rewarding. And he is now executive director of the nonprofit I founded, Save One Life.
Chris has dedicated his life to helping those with bleeding disorders in developing countries. He even put his life on the line, to raise money and bring awareness of the plight of those with lack of access to factor.
Now all he is asking is for us to climb! Not Mt. Everest, but your stairs, in your home. Climb your stairs 29 times, to represent Everest (29,029 feet), donate $29 to Save One Life, and challenge 9 of your friends! So we are climbing for Chris (to honor his climb) but really climbing for the kids who suffer.
So today I did it! 38 steps, 29 times. After after I did that, I did it about two more times. And I’m going to keep doing it this whole month of May. How about you? Enjoy this 2-minute video to “Holiday” by Green Day, get motivated, and climb! I don’t know about you, but being in quarantine has not helped my waistline. I’m used to being super active. This will help! Learn more at www.saveonelife.net!
I’m sitting at my desk, waiting for a snow storm to roll in, and thinking about how we are ending this amazing year. There was the usual travel to attend NHF’s and HFA’s annual meeting, and I also attended the Bombardier Blood movie showings in California (at FFF Enterprises and Genentech), Michigan, North Carolina and Utah!
My work was honored at a spectacularly beautiful gala hosted by Hope for Hemophilia in New Orleans, where I received a beautiful award and watched a video about my work–that was amazing and surreal! Save One Life, the international nonprofit I founded, received an award at NHF’s gala in September.
I cycled in Massachusetts to raise money for Save One Life while honoring the memory of Barry Haarde, climbed Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for it as well, and rode a bike for three days with the likes of Kim Philo and Michael DeGrandpre, through three states to raise money for HFA–Gears for Good.
I visited Haiti, Tanzania, Kenya and the island of Zanzibar. Haiti was a less than 24-hour visit due to the violence, but something good came of it, as we established enough of a toehold to start the first ever hemophilia program in Haiti! If nothing else happened this year but this, I would be completely happy and call it a successful year!
I visited many old friends and colleagues throughout the country, and also hosted visitors from India, the Philippines and Kenya in my home. I endured a torn meniscus, back spasm, altitude sickness or something like it, flipped over my handlebars in Maryland in a tunnel, and was hit by a car while on my bike in Massachusetts. But I’m still standing!
For fun I saw Metallica, the Rolling Stones, the Who and many other bands, visited the Museum of Natural History in NYC, Buddy Holley’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas and the crash site in Clear Lake, Iowa, and hiked up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire and all through Zion in Utah.
Save One Life was restructured and welcomed a new executive director, Chris Bombardier!
It’s been quite a year. And so we are finishing our 29th year of existence at LA Kelley Communications! Next year is our 30th anniversary…. 30 years of bringing original and ground-breaking publications, all free. We thank our sponsors for supporting our work here in the US, which supports indirectly our work in developing countries. And we thank you for reading our publications, allowing us to help bring news and insight about bleeding disorders to you, and for all your support for Save One Life!
When our team was dividing up who will represent Save One Life at various showings of “Bombardier Blood,” the incredible movie about Chris Bombardier’s Seven Summits Quest, I jumped at going to Utah. Utah is one of my favorite places: drenched in southwest colors of red and yellow, with soaring mesas and fins, and deep, rich canyons, it’s an adventurer’s dream. It seemed to fit the message of the movie, too: go out. See the world. Climb, hike, walk, smell fresh air, dream, do.
After spending a week exploring Antelope Island, Moab and Zion, I headed north on I-15 and reached Salt Lake City. The Utah Hemophilia Foundation’s executive director Scott Muir was there to greet me. And not only greet me, but to give me the gift of his paintings, bound as photos in a hardcover book! All the paintings are of Zion National Park, which he well knows I adore. Scott is a talented photographer and artist.
And apparently, executive director! We had a huge turnout for the event. About 150 or more families arrived to socialize, have dinner, enter raffles and engage with the various pharma and specialty pharmacy vendors. I was so happy to meet up with long time friends, colleagues and Facebook friends (some of whom I have not yet met in person). There were so many children, and while you might think their presence might disrupt a movie, the children were as good as gold.
I gave a few words before the movie started, and let the audience know this amazing stat: out of the 108 billion people who have ever walked this earth, less than 500 have ever accomplished all Seven Summits. I’m not sure you can easily even measure that! The audience was hushed as the movie began, and for 90 minutes, were riveted to the screens.
After the movie, one 14-year-old asked me a very leading question: how did Chris keep his factor warm on the mountain? “Why don’t you ask him yourself?” I replied. His eyes lit up! Chris must seem like a hero to so many, and thus, out of reach. But he is very approachable. The young teen was thrilled to get Chris’s email address, and I had to ask him: was he interested one day in doing mountain climbs? He nodded his head vigorously and smiled! Come join us, I invited him!
And coincidentally, Save One Life will be hosting a three-day hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in 2020!
Bombardier Blood is about making dreams come true, and if you can see it at your local chapter, please do! You may believe anything is possible.
Thanks to Utah Hemophilia Foundation for hosting this movie, and to all who sponsored the event. Special call out to Octapharma, which sponsored Chris’s last two and most expensive climbs, and for daring to take a risk on a young man with a big dream. Sometimes the riskiest adventures yield the greatest joys and successes!
Bombardier Blood was created by Believe Ltd, and is now produced by Alex Borstein. It showcases not only Chris’s climbs but also the disparity of treatment in bleeding disorder between developed and developing countries, being addressed through the work of Save One Life.
The air was crisp with the coming of Fall when we visited New York City this past Thursday night to attend NHF’s Annual Soirée, a fundraiser that honors various members and organizations in the bleeding disorder community. I have attended once before, a few years ago. It’s a lovely night and chance to get caught up with colleagues and friends, while being dressed to the nines. This night, the nonprofit organization I founded, Save One Life, was to be honored. We were receiving the “Global Impact Award.”
Along with Save One Life, Alex Borstein, television actress and community member, David Quinn, head coach for the NY Rangers and the World Federation of Hemophilia were also being honored for the Inspiration Award, Ambassador Award, and Global Leadership Award, respectively. Congratulations to all who were honored!
Chris Bombardier, Save One Life’s executive director
(and famous mountaineer with hemophilia) and I took the stage to accept the award,
while several of our board members looked on. With us were: board member Ujjwal
Bhattarai, chair, who helped us found Save One Life, and his wife Sunita, who
have a child with hemophilia; new board member Natalie Lynch, and husband
Patrick (actor and film director, president of Believe Ltd., who has hemophilia),
and board member Kayla Klein, mother of a child with hemophilia who works at
While looking at them from the stage and into the
bright lights of the future, I recalled our very humble roots. I spoke to the
audience about how Ujjwal and I have worked for 18 years to make Save One Life
truly have impact among the world’s poor. It has been a long, difficult and
challenging road, but with the greatest of rewards: to help those without
access to factor have access; to help those who live on the edge have security;
to let those with an uncertain future know they have an organization to count
on. After 18 years we have now seen so many of our children in school,
graduating, have jobs and even have families of their own.
We had to give credit to Chris, and his daring Seven Summits Quest, which helped raise awareness of Save One Life to the global community. And more than that, the documentary “Bombardier Blood,” directed by Patrick Lynch of Believe Ltd and now produced by Alex Borstein, has catapulted us into the spotlight. We never sought recognition or fame for the work we consider a personal and compelling mission—for me, based on my faith—but the movie has done more for us than just about anything we have done ourselves. We could not thank Chris or Patrick enough for their efforts. Their sacrifices and dedication have been huge. And kudos and gratitude to Octapharma, which funded the last two mega-climbs, and for funding the entire movie.
But absent that evening was a key person, perhaps
without whom known of this would have come to pass.
Twenty years ago, a mom from Cold Springs Harbor, New
York, not far from where the event took place, sent me a letter. She has a son
with hemophilia, only a few years younger than mine, and read my books and
newsletter. In 1999, we used to write letters to one another! Hers came on one
sheet of yellow lined paper, and on it, she wondered if there was a way to help
children with bleeding disorders in developing countries, like Save the
Children. I happened to have sponsored two children with Save the Children, one
in Lebanon and one in Mali. Not long after she sent her letter, I made my first
trip to Pakistan, a country I have grown to love. There, on the Arabian Sea, in
a humble, two room dwelling in a very poor area, I sat on a bed with a baby in
my lap, listening to a father with a fretful expression speak about his two young
sons with hemophilia. He was very poor, only earning about $20 US a month. He wished
for an extra $20 a month, to send his oldest boy, Mohammad Ali, to school. With
this education, his son could get a good job, once he learned English. I
thought this would be an easy fix. And if we could do this for this Pakistani
child, why not do it for others? Americans are among the most generous people
on earth, and I knew if we appealed to them to help children with hemophilia who
were poor and without factor, we could help change lives.
It was Lisa’s letter that kept drawing me back. Could we
create a program like Save the Children?
The answer was yes. Yes. Anything is possible!
Now, 18 years later, here we are. Over 2,000 children sponsored. Over $3 million in direct aid. Over 270 college scholarships. Over 80 microenterprise grants. Over 30 camp grants. 13 developing countries. And more to come… .
As it happened, I was going to Huntington, New York
after the event to catch a Doors tribute band show at the Paramount Theater. Something
rang a bell… I checked my database and saw that Lisa lived right near Huntington.
A few texts later and we agreed to meet!
This morning Lisa walked into the Sweet Hollow Diner,
and we sat together for breakfast, while I shared all the profound and
life-changing programs and stories that have happened over the past 18 years. She was amazed; with her son grown and gone, she
had kind of lost touch with the bleeding disorder community.
I believe in honoring those who make a difference. Save One Life was not my idea; it was Lisa’s. Lisa cast a small stone into a pond, and the ripple effect continues after 18 years, and hopefully will continue for decades to come. Her idea was a catalyst, and so many have benefited from it. Let’s honor Lisa, as well as those Thursday night. It was her vision that gave birth to Save One Life.
Coincidences are God’s way of staying anonymous. Albert Einstein
Yesterday I was in Denver, Colorado, to attend the hometown premiere of Bombardier Blood, the new documentary that chronicles the life and achievement of Chris Bombardier, a person with hemophilia B this year who became the first person with hemophilia to complete the Seven Summits. The movie was debuted at NHF’s annual meeting in Orlando, in October, to an audience of over 500. Yesterday, the Colorado Hemophilia Society rented an IMAX theater, and invited the Colorado bleeding disorder community to attend.
What a proud day for Colorado! Chris and his wife Jess attended, flying in as I did from Boston, which recently became their new home. Chris’s whole family came: parents Alan and Cathy, Aunt Bev and Uncle Jay Labe and cousin Nicole, and of course, “Crazy” Uncle Dave. And while Chris’s whole family is incredibly warm, down-to-earth and personable, I really wanted to meet this character Uncle Dave! When you see the movie—and you will someday—you will know what I mean!
We congratulated the astounding film-making and editing team of Rob Bradford and Steven Sander, who were both present, and thanked expedition and film sponsor Octapharma. The theater filled with community members—moms, dads, small children, and many of Chris’s peers with hemophilia—holding popcorn, soda and high expectations. We settled into our seats before the mammoth screen, hushed our voices, silenced our cell phones, and the theater darkened. The darkness faded into a scene of Everest, prayer flags, snow and ice, and Chris, trying to skewer a vein in the icy air. The film continued from this moment at Everest, into a 90-minute tale of what it took to get him there. It is a fascinating story of a boy with hemophilia who dreamed of being a baseball player, who was thwarted in his dreams, who suffered depression, anger, who was disconnected from his own local community… until key events unfolded in sequence, “like divine intervention,” one audience member confided. The events included the right people appearing in his life at the right time, until his destiny seemed all but spelled out. This young man would conquer Everest.
I took part in Chris’s journey at some point, and have seen this movie three times now. It never fails to inspire. You want to jump out of your seat and get moving, to find your own dream, and then make it happen. If Chris could climb the Seven Summits (a feat only about 450 humans ever in history have done!), and did it with hemophilia, then what can the rest of us accomplish? We are only limited, it seems, by our own imagination, and our belief in ourselves.
But some new footage was added to this version of the film—the role played by the vivacious and energetic Amy Board, executive director of the Colorado Hemophilia Society. Amy was the person who drew Chris out from the crowd. She encouraged him to come to hemophilia camp, where Chris met someone else with hemophilia for the first time. He saw how the children were active, happy, connected. And Chris became connected. He volunteered at camp, became a mentor to the children. Due to Amy, Chris became part of the hemophilia community. It was the first major step on the long hike to better mental health, a career, a new vision… and ultimately Everest.
Chris did not just scale the Seven Summits or make a movie about himself; he has promoted hemophilia worldwide with his life-risking achievement, and he has made a call for action for others, to help those in developing countries through Save One Life. Without Amy, without camp, he might not have joined the community. Without working at the Indiana HTC as a lab tech, he might never have gone to Africa, where his eyes were opened to the suffering of his blood brothers overseas. Without Uncle Dave? Who knows. Bombardier Blood boasts a cast of supporting characters who embody this mystical truth: We never know what ripples we create when we reach out, take a risk, and care about another human being.
Chris did it. He made history. First person with hemophilia to scale Everest, and to bag the Seven Summits. And I suspect that Chris’s story is far from over, but is really just beginning.
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