Posted: Monday Nov 14, 2011
An avid skier who calls herself “outdoorsy,” Saint Vincent College graduate Stephanie Hewitson recently completed a challenging climb to the top of Africa’s snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world, to raise nearly $100,000 for the American Foundation for Children with AIDS.
Ms. Hewitson, 28, is a 2005 graduate of Saint Vincent College where she earned a bachelor of science degree in political science before earning a masters degree in public international law at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, in 2008. A research analyst for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ House Republican Policy Committee, she lives in Harrisburg.
Shortly after her arrival there, she enrolled in an aerobics class where she met Tanya Weaver, who is the executive director of the American Foundation for Children with AIDS. They became friends and she volunteered to help with research, press releases and other projects. Eventually, she became interested in the organization’s biggest fundraiser which had been done annually since 2006 – organizing groups to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and other mountains as part of a campaign called Climb Up So Kids Can Grow Up. Ms. Hewitson was part of a team of 14 women from central Pennsylvania plus two from Germany and two from New Jersey to climb the highest mountain in Africa and the highest walkable mountain in the world. It is described as among the greatest outdoor challenges on the planet, a magnificent and spectacular trek. Together, they solicited gifts from their family, friends, businesses and others that totaled $85,000 by the time of their climb October 1 to 12.
“I am an outdoorsy person and ski a lot,” Ms. Hewitson said. “The high elevation –19,340 feet – makes the climb more of an endurance test since you have to do four to six hours a day. I personally was ok with the altitude though I had some bad headaches. We were advised to keep eating and drinking despite any nausea. It took five days to complete the climb and only seven of us made it to the top. It took an additional two days to descend the mountain. I don’t plan to do it again though I don’t want to rule it out.”
All of the proceeds from the project were donated to the American Foundation for Children with AIDS. “They help children in Africa who are affected or infected with HIV/AIDS virus. They do some amazing work and have great programs going over there,” she added.
Ms. Hewitson, a former midfielder who played varsity soccer at Saint Vincent for four years, is also a current volunteer with the Humane Society and her Neighborhood Association. Born in South Africa, she lived in England, Indonesia, Colorado and Australia while growing up and graduated from Somerset High School after her parents, Andrew and Janet Hewitson, moved to Hidden Valley where they became friends with a neighbor, Dr. Richard Nichols, who teaches in the education department at Saint Vincent. “Attending Saint Vincent was part of my growing interest in helping others on a larger scale,” she noted. “My main motivation in helping the American Foundation is that I am impressed with how they help people. They ask what the needs are in hospitals and schools rather than telling them. I always wanted to work with a non-profit organization so this provides me with that opportunity.” The group’s contribution was used to purchase medical supplies, school supplies, antibiotics, and food for children in Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
In her spare time, she enjoys skiing and taking care of her two dogs, a basset hound and a Jack Russell mini-poodle. She is engaged to marry Christopher “Kip” Watkins, a 2005 graduate of Saint Vincent who works as a psychological therapist.
Stephanie Hewitson, C’05, hugs the sign at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro which she climbed to raise funds for the American Foundation for Children with AIDS.