ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. — Spencer West is on a mission to show people anything is truly possible.
The Rock Springs native was born with a genetic disorder that forced his legs to be amputated when he was a child. He was told by doctors he would never be a functioning member of society.
West has again proved the doctors wrong. In June, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro as part of an effort to raise money for Free The Children, an organization that provides water, sanitation and education for impoverished children.
After graduating from Rock Springs High School, West went to Westminster College in Salt Lake City. He eventually ended up working in Arizona and in 2008 grew frustrated about living in the corporate world, West said.
That's when a friend convinced him to join up with Free The Children and he went to Kenya.
"It was life changing," West tells the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner (http://bit.ly/Nvdukh).
When he arrived at his Kenyan destination, kids came out to see him and asked him questions. One girl said that she didn't know that things like losing your legs can happen to white people. West said that changed his perspective, and his life.
When he returned from the trip, West joined Me to We as a speaker. Me to We is an organization that sponsors volunteer trips and provides people with "better choices for a better world." He eventually led a volunteer trip to Kenya and witnessed the biggest drought the area had ever seen, West said.
The director of Me to We asked West if he would think about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak.
West said his first reaction was "not really," but eventually he agreed, as long as he did it for a campaign, not just for himself. He also wanted to climb the mountain with his friends.
West trained for a year to climb the mountain and worked to raise $750,000 for Free The Children.
He and his friends pursued the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in June.
The trek was more rigorous than West expected. "I thought I could do half with my wheelchair," he said. "I had to do a lot more walking."
"Despite what people think, hands aren't meant to be walked on," West said.
During the climb, his friends helped him a lot, even carrying him when necessary, West said.
They reached a point in the trek when West's friends both had a problem with altitude sickness. West, however, didn't have a problem with the altitude.
"It's the first time in my life that I thought, 'I wish I had legs, today,'" West said. "I would have carried them."
The group was worried they might not make it, West said.
The friends worked together, however, and made the summit, six days after they started the climb. "It was all about the entire journey," West said. "We wanted to be a symbol for what we can all accomplish."
West said that he is grateful for his Rock Springs roots. "I can't imagine growing up anywhere else."
While West said he left the area because he was looking for something else in his life, Rock Springs created his foundation. "There's a sense of community there," he said.
West's parents still live in Rock Springs. "I come back every Christmas," he said, "and usually one time after that."
He currently lives in Canada.
West called his parents his heroes. "They never treated me like I was different."
They didn't have time to focus on what West couldn't do, they were too busy focusing on what he could do, he said.
When it came to his mountain climbing, West said his mom was very supportive, but "she was a nervous wreck" about it.
His dad, however, was upset that he wasn't asked to join him, West said.
West's goal is to help people redefine what is possible. "We want to show people that anything is actually possible. If you don't try, you're never going to know."
People don't have to climb mountains to redefine possible, West said. They can do small things as individuals. "It can be finally signing up for swimming lessons, or reading to your kids every night," he said.
To people who say they can't do things, West said people should check out the Web site http://www.metowe.com .
Information from: Rock Springs (Wyo.) Rocket-Miner, http://www.rocketminer.com