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Valley burn survivors to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Posted at 6:01 PM, Jun 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-13 14:30:00-04

“It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But I'm also really nervous,” says 12-year-old Isabella McCune from Phoenix.

She joins 11-year-old Isla Cook from Peoria, Arizona.

The two are gearing up for one of life’s biggest adventures: Climbing the highest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro.

ABC15 caught up with them during their Minneapolis layover. They leave Sunday for Tanzania on the nearly two-week climb.

"Being able to do this and summit this mountain and come back down and tell my parents about it and have them be just such an amazing support system, which is really what's going to keep me going,” McCune says.

A huge feat for these two, it's a welcome challenge following a devastating moment. Cook suffered burns from over 46% of her body after a propane tank accident last June.

And for McCune, her burn accident happened four years ago on Saint Patrick’s Day at a neighborhood gathering.

McCune says, "Some days are going to be really hard, and some days might be easier than others. And it's not something that's going to just end after you leave the hospital. It's something that is going to be with us for the rest of our lives. And we are just taking it as a way to do something better with it. Instead of letting it affect us in a negative way.”

Enduring life-threatening injuries, surgeries and physical rehab, the eight burn survivors are part of a project called "Courage Rising." It’s sponsored by Valleywise Health Foundation.

"We've been doing a lot of group hikes and then we do a lot of hikes on our own,” Cook says.

McCune responds, “Yeah, so just hiking on our own and then the 'Courage Rising' team has been doing group hikes for over two years now.”

The group will be with medical professionals from the burn center and some loved ones. The climbers are raising money during their hike for the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health.

McCune’s message to other burn survivors: "Don't give up. Keep going, keep fighting, keep staying strong. Because it's really the best thing that's going to keep you going. There are so many people that love you and so many people that are there to support you.”

You can learn more about the cause and donate here.