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Esther Kafer, 84, and Martin Kafer, 85, make their way up the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver on Sept. 6, 2012. They’re planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The Donor: Esther and Martin Kafer

The Gift: Raising $21,000 and climbing

The Cause: Alzheimer Society of British Columbia

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Esther and Martin Kafer grew up in Switzerland and have been climbing mountains for more than 70 years. They met on a mountain top and spent their honeymoon in 1953 scaling the Matterhorn.

The couple, now both in their 80s, moved to Canada in 1954, first settling in Kitimat, B.C, and later in Vancouver. It was supposed to be a temporary stop, just long enough for Mr. Kafer to gain some international experience for his job as an electrical engineer with a Swiss company.

But the couple never left. "The mountains were the big attraction that kept us here," said Mr. Kafer, who is 85. The Kafers have kept up their mountaineering, taking regular hikes up Vancouver's Grouse Mountain and skiing every winter at Whistler.

Now they are putting their love of the mountains to work for a cause.

They are heading to Kenya this month to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as part of a fundraiser for Alzheimer Society of British Columbia.

They have raised $21,000 so far and hope to raise another $9,000. If they make it, the couple will also be the oldest to climb the mountain.

The cause has particular resonance for Mr. Kafer. His sister Etta Kafer-Boothroyd, a scientist and former university professor who lives in the Vancouver area, has suffered a rapid decline because of Alzheimer's.

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In five years years she has gone from working on genetic research to not remembering her name.

"It's kind of a sad story," said Mr. Kafer. "I just thought that helping the Alzheimer Society with what little we can do would be a good thing."

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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