Coupling a sense of adventure and challenge with raising awareness for the impactful but rare skin condition, Vitiligo, Daniel Kalakech and his close friend James Plumley will soon venture to climb the highest mountains in Europe and Africa – Mont Blanc and Mount Kilimanjaro – back to back. Having called the island home for years now, Daniel plans to plant the St. Martin Unity Flag on the summits, promoting the island. After he returns, he looks forward to visiting schools all around the island, speaking to youngsters about bullying, perseverance, hard work, acceptance, and vitiligo awareness.
Daniel told The Weekender about the passion project in an interview. He chose the unity flag, rather than using the French flag which wouldn’t represent the island specifically. Daniel is in high-gear training for his trip, which starts at the end of August, and is also seeking partnerships with sponsors, who will be supporting a good cause and promoted on his social media as he documents the exciting journeys through photo and film. Realising this project prompted him to create the organisation ‘Vitiligo Summit2Summit Challenge’. Extra donations that are not used for the trip will be donated to Vitiligo research and treatment.
Daniel has always loved outdoor sports, and climbing the highest mountains represents the culmination of hard work and passion – it’s a childhood dream. Training for something this grand is also tied into living with a skin disease that is so noticeable, misunderstood, and often leads to stares and bullying. Starting suddenly at age 14 with a patch on his hand, vitiligo spread over Daniel’s body, and was extremely hard to accept. He’s had to learn to live with it, mentally and physically, and wants to break the stigma, especially amongst young people.
Living with the highly visible disease is something that can take years to accept, he shared, and only in recent years is he starting to notice a little more representation. Any disease can be thought of as a weakness, and for Daniel, sport has been a way to build strength and confidence – to thrive. He wants to share that with others whenever he can. “Everyone knows life isn’t just supposed to be easy, but you can control your point of view,” he shared. “Only some things are in your control, and you have to keep a positive mindset.”
Daniel’s love for sport – everything from running and cycling to surfing and cross-country skiing – is part of what connects him to his close friend and partner for the upcoming journey, James Plumley. The two met years ago while volunteering in Europe, stayed in touch, and are both passionate about sport. James will be joining Daniel from Guernsey, UK, for the Summit2Summit Challenge.
The drastically different terrains and climates present even more of a challenge, and sense of adventure. Daniel is currently preparing and training with different partners, including Intergeneration Club, Dream of Trail and Discover Crossfit, and having post-training recovery treatments with Renata França from New Jeunesse Beauté. He has also connected with Desiree Winkel for advice. The owner of Fitness Coaching, Desiree is an avid athlete and has gained her own experience climbing mountains. Her mountaineering adventures have previously been shared in The Daily Herald’s “Health & Beauty” supplement.
Follow the Vitiligo Summit2Summit Challenge on Facebook and Instagram @vitiligosummits. Donations are welcome from anyone willing to support the project. Daniel thanks those who have already put their support behind him, including Monoprix SXM, Yogart, Go Sport, Discover Crossfit, La Maison de la Literie, So Benedict, Be Kool, New Jeunesse Beauté SXM, ATC SXM, Blue Martini, Rotary Club of Saint Martin, and Grand Case Beach Club.