Climbing for a cause

Assistant Police Chief Bryan Anderson and insurance executive Scott Melius know they'll be pushed to their physical limits when they climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, in September.

But too much is at stake not to make it to the top of the 19,340-foot mountain, they said.

Anderson and Melius are part of a 30-member Charlotte area team of Rotarians who plan to scale the mountain together to raise tens of thousands of dollars toward the worldwide eradication of polio.

Rotary is a volunteer organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service locally and across the world. Rotary has made wiping out polio a top priority; the disease is found only in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Charlotte area Rotary District 7680 will be the first such district in the world to send a team to Kilimanjaro's top.

Anderson and Melius belong to the Rotary Club of Top of the Lake in Mooresville. Melius is a former president of the club. Both decided to join the Kilimanjaro team within seconds of learning of the chance.

Each climber had to commit to raise $3,000 toward polio eradication - besides the $3,000 in travel, gear and other costs they'll foot.

"Failure is not an option," Melius said last week. "We will not fail to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, and we will not fail to raise the $3,000."

"Go hard or go home," Anderson said.

Both are physically fit but know that scaling Kilimanjaro will require even greater levels of endurance and will. Oxygen levels drop dramatically toward the top, which is why they're training with twice the weight they'll need in their backpacks.

Melius, 43, is vice president of Jemco Insurance in Mooresville. He is 5-feet-8, 180 pounds and was a long-range reconnaissance specialist during 10 years in the Army. He served in Desert Storm in Iraq in 1990 and 1991. During his training, he hiked 90 miles through the Alps in three days to earn his commando badge.

His children are Michael, 19, and Nathan, 9. Girlfriend Melanie Harwood accompanies him on his practice climbs on various N.C. mountains. They scaled Crowders Mountain in Gaston County on Dec. 10 - a good mountain to train on because of how it rises so dramatically, Melius said.

Anderson, 42, has been in law enforcement for 20 years - eight with the Salisbury Police Department and now 12 with Mooresville. He is 5-feet-6, 175 pounds and was a competitive power-lifter until his mid-20s, placing in the top 10 in every event he entered. He and his wife, Christy, have a daughter, Madison, 10.

The team is led by Macon Dunnagan of Charlotte, who's climbed Kilimanjaro 23 times, including a world-record three times in a month.

Anderson said each climber will lose 10 pounds over the five days and 41 miles of getting to the top. "They like to refer to Kilimanjaro as the weight loss and sun-tan capital of the world," he said.

The most challenging part will be at the end, when they climb from midnight to 3 p.m. the next day. It will also be the most satisfying. knowing they've made a difference in the fight against a dreaded disease.