Reaching the Summit

(CHELCO) CEO Steve Rhodes and his family reach the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro

After a week-long journey fueled by grit and determination, Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative (CHELCO) CEO Steve Rhodes and his family reached the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. They joined an elite group to reach Uhuru Peak, the highest in the African continent. The Rhodes family successfully raised $37,610 for NRECA International to help with rural electrification efforts in Africa and around the world.

Their adventure delivered many obstacles: unfriendly weather, continuously changing terrain, and an illness that almost derailed the feat. The Rhodes family was part of a 10-person group, supported by an even larger group of guides, cooks and porters. Each day brought different challenges in addition to the difficult adjustment to altitude—which would eventually peak at 19,340 feet. Stories also were shared about past failed attempts, injuries, and death. But as planned, on the 7th day Steve and his family began the final cold and slow hike up a narrow dirt path before the sun came up. Finally, they reached Uhuru Peak – an achievement that almost seemed unattainable just days ago. They were exhausted, and time spent at the coveted spot was crowded, very cold and short-lived.

The journey began earlier this year when Steve began planning to have a family adventure of a lifetime, and one with a strong purpose: Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise $30,000 for NRECA International and its mission around the world.

“If you think about it, nothing improves a life more than access to electricity,” Steve said a few months ago. “From daily chores to nighttime security to modern technology. Nothing has a bigger impact than electricity. As a family, we want to do our part.”

With Steve was his wife Tami, and daughter Samantha who recently joined the co-op family serving as the new associate editor at Country Living, the official publication for Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives.

“My biggest surprise of the trip was the mental toughness required,” Steve said. “The last two to three days was physically grueling, but probably even more difficult mentally. It was all about ‘one foot in front of the other’ and perseverance. This added to the overall feeling of accomplishment once we reached the summit.”

To see more photos from the trip, visit their blog at