In a display of resilience and determination, Chris Farrenholz ’03, international studies, has achieved an awe-inspiring feat – summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. In addition to reaching a personal goal, the climb was a mission to raise awareness and funds for clean water initiatives with Waterboys.
Farrenholz’s journey to the summit of Kilimanjaro began long before he set foot in Tanzania, rooted in his passion for making a difference and his years of service to his country through the Army and ROTC at Capital.
“Mount Kilimanjaro is one of those things that I had just always wanted to do. It’s not inaccessible because you don’t need oxygen, and it’s not like Mount Everest, where you pay a lot of money to go climb it and half the people don’t even make it,” said Farrenholz. “I went to a documentary film festival and saw a film about a group of veterans who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for charity. After some research, I found Waterboys. The organization has a program called the ‘Conquering Kili’ challenge for professional athletes and military veterans. The idea is you climb Mount Kilimanjaro and come home to raise awareness about the water crisis.”
Waterboys is a nonprofit organization founded by retired NFL player Chris Long. The organization's primary mission is to provide clean, accessible drinking water to communities in need, particularly in East Africa. One of the organization's most notable initiatives is the Conquering Kili challenge, where a group of NFL players, military veterans, and other supporters climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
The initiative combines physical challenges with fundraising efforts, drawing attention to the need for clean water in remote and underserved communities. Waterboys has made a community impact by providing sustainable water solutions to thousands of people in East Africa and beyond, improving health, sanitation, and overall quality of life.
“My 2023 Conquering Kili class consisted of 12 people. It was six veterans, three water advocates, and three retired professional athletes,” said Farrenholz. “It was a really great opportunity. The fundraising was definitely challenging, but I achieved the goal set for us.”
Each team member was tasked with raising $7,500. Before the climb, Farrenholz visited a community that had been directly impacted by Waterboys.
“One of the things that was really rewarding was seeing the people we’re helping. It was remarkable. We went to a school where we opened a well that had been funded by last year’s group. That’s how the Conquering Kili challenge works – the group raises money to build a well, it’s built, and then the following year’s group opens it,” said Farrenholz. “You hear statistics about how many people die each year of water-based bacteria because people don’t have or have limited access to clean water, but it was really impactful to see lives changed firsthand.”
Farrenholz started his career with the Army through ROTC at Capital. It was a career path he was destined for, even as a little boy playing with GI Joe. The Army ROTC program at Capital was established in 1992 and continues to have a presence on campus.
“I always wanted to be in the military, so I signed up freshman year and then received the ROTC scholarship sophomore through senior year. I really enjoyed it. They have extracurriculars within the program, as well, like the Ranger challenge and color guard at the games. Essentially, it’s just a class that you can attend like any other class, but then you get training,” said Farrenholz. “I was the first person in my graduating class to deploy. I went from Capital to an officer basic course and immediately to Iraq.”
The Army ROTC program at Capital was established in 1992 and continues to have a presence on campus. On October 21, the university will celebrate Military Appreciation Day by honoring veterans, active service members, families, and ROTC students during the football game.
Over the course of two combat deployments, Farrenholz served in Baghdad, Karbala, Tal A’far and Ramadi as an Information Operations Officer and Combat Logistics Patrol Commander. He has lived on every continent except South America and Africa.
“I’m a melting pot of all the different places I’ve lived,” said Farrenholz. ““People are generally the same everywhere you go. Generally, people just want to live their lives, be happy, raise their kids, and hope that their kids do better than them. Regardless of where you go, people just want a good life.”
To learn more about Army ROTC at Capital, visit https://www.capital.edu/academics/military-science/
To learn more about Chris Farrenholz, visit https://waterboys.org/christopherfarrenholz.