Friends' mountain climbing mission spreads help, hope

Tackling three mountains, 1,000 miles and one cause, a few of your neighbors are reaching new heights with the goal of eradicating malaria.

Central Texan Dinesh Ranasinghe took on his first mountain when became a member of Team Everest 2003.

"I always wanted a good challenge," he said.

It wasn't just any old group of climbers scaling the sides of the world's tallest mountain, some had lost arms and others were paraplegics. Ranasinghe climbed Mount Everest with a prosthetic leg.

"Climbing a mountain is one thing, but being involved in that special group is something completely different," he said. "That's what I always look for is that special project that stands for more than just summiting a mountain."

Ranasinghe said he has found that "special project" once again.

"I've already gone on expeditions, and I thought that part of my life was over," he said.

In actuality, it's just begun.

Ranasinghe's good friend, Branndon Bargo and Bargo's brother, Greg Bargo, have a story all their own.

"We both love the outdoors, we both love adventure, and we really care about people and, we really care about helping people," Greg said.

An idea sparked when Branndon spent four months in Uganda, where his passion for Africa came alive.

"[I] started doing some research and found out about malaria, and found out that it was this huge killer," Branndon said. "People were talking about AIDS and other issues, and no one was really focusing on malaria."

His trip gave birth to "One Blood Initiative."

A group of nine will climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. From there, the Bargo brothers will climb Mount Kenya and Mount Stanley. They'll bike to each mountain and sea kayak across Lake Victoria.

The team said they chose the route to traverse through a series of communities along the way, meet with community leaders and develop a plan to help combat malaria.

"So, we're developing relationships with these people, saying, 'Here's what we're wanting to do, but how can we really help you?' and trying to find the resources they already have and tap into that," Branndon said. "And, so the big goal is to eradicate malaria from the planet."

Greg added that the initiative is about empowerment.

"Just empowering them to say, 'Hey, y'all can make a difference in your own community,'" he said. "Hopefully that will spread like wildfire, where they can say, 'OK, we've got hope, we can battle malaria but we have to come together to do it.'"

Once Ranasinghe found about the cause, he jumped at the chance.

"To put it simply, you got to help a fellow human," he said. "You can't say it any simpler than that."

It's an ambitious goal through adventure and through aid.

"What we want to do is get people excited just like us, and sometimes it's not climbing a mountain, it's just acting," Branndon said.

If self-reflection was the goal, the Bargo brothers and their team have already hit the summit.

The team will spend two weeks climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The Bargos will continue their mission in Africa for another month. The team takes off on the expedition Sunday.

News 8 will be sure to keep tabs on the One Blood Initiative.

Read more about it at OneBloodInitiative.org.