Funded! This project was successfully funded on May 10, 2013.

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A feature-length documentary about the first African American expedition to tackle North America’s highest peak – #ExpDenali

What will happen to the public lands in this country when the majority of Americans don't feel a personal connection to the outdoors?

We want to make a [really good] documentary film to make sure our grandchildren don't have to answer that question, and we need your help.

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Follow @ExpDenali on Twitter to keep on top of things
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Remember, a $40 pledge gets you a digital version of the film to watch on your phone, tablet, or computer before almost anyone else in the world gets to see it!

An important note: $107,500 is the bare minimum we need to make this film, but exceeding that goal means a better, more polished movie for you, and a safer, more realistic production for us.

Every additional dollar we get from here on out will go towards:

  • More advanced camera systems on the mountain that will allow us to do a better job of capturing the spectacular beauty of Denali and Alaska
  • Equipment to enable real-time updates from the mountain during the expedition
  • Increasing our promotion and distribution budgets to reach more people when the film is done
  • Being able to submit the movie to film festivals around the world (this can be very expensive)

Thanks again, and here's a recent article that really captures the essence of the project and reminds us why we got involved in the first place:

All African-American Team Takes on Denali – Why It Matters from National Geographic
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By 2019, it is estimated that minority children will become the majority in the U.S. These kids will become the leaders of this country and the world, and a staggering majority of them don't feel the outdoors is a place for them. 

In June of this year, nine mountaineers will attempt to become the first all-African-American team to climb Denali (a.k.a. Mount McKinley) in Alaska. Not only is this team unique in regards to the color of their skin, their goal goes way beyond summiting North America’s highest peak. Their ultimate objective is to inspire people of all colors, men and women, young and old, to get more engaged in the great outdoors. Why? Because long-term preservation and ongoing stewardship of the world’s wild places will require a broader, more inclusive, more colorful constituency.

Our purpose in creating this documentary film is to tell the amazing story of Expedition Denali, but in order to do that we need your help.

This National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) expedition, with support from The North Face, REI, and the Foundation for Youth Investment, will happen. How many people know about it—how far their inspiration and awareness reaches—is another question.

Your donation will enable us to create a powerful, far-reaching feature film on the team’s journey to the roof of North America. From putting a camera team on the mountain with the expedition to producing, promoting and distributing the resulting feature-length film, this project will increase awareness for the allure and rewards of exploring natural environments and make clear that it’s high time to welcome all races, all ethnicities—all people—to nature’s inspirational outdoor playgrounds.

This group of climbers will do more than climb a mountain. At an elevation of 20,320 feet, extreme altitude and harsh weather aren't the only barriers Expedition Denali is determined to break through. On the 100th anniversary of the first Denali summit, Expedition Denali is a symbolic step forward, encouraging people of color—and particularly African American youth—to participate in and become inspired by the vastness and beauty of nature.

Team members on the Mt. Baker practice climb in the Pacific Northwest, check out the video.
Team members on the Mt. Baker practice climb in the Pacific Northwest, check out the video.

In short, they will not only make history, they will create a legacy, “to get outside and get active.” As documented in Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods,” fewer and fewer young people are enjoying the outdoors. This problem is particularly acute in our communities of color where “nature deficit disorder” and childhood obesity are reaching epidemic proportions. Without opportunities to experience the great outdoors, or role models to inspire them to get engaged in it in the first place, the next generation of passionate advocates for the outdoors won’t be heard.

If wild places had LeBron James or Serena Williams, this issue may be moot. But for women and kids of color, there are not enough outdoor icons to give them a reason to care. No sporting super heroes to lure them into the magic of mountains—no cultural icons to cast limelight on the expansive, restorative, soulful rewards of time spent outdoors.

As NOLS' Bruce Palmer has said, "This expedition is more than simply making history. It is an effort to build an outdoor legacy for people of color, particularly African-Americans."

Expedition Denali Team Members (From L to R): Rosemary Saal, Scott Briscoe, Ryan Mitchell, Erica Wynn, Stephen DeBerry, Stephen Shobe, Billy Long, Tyrhee Moore, Adina Scott
Expedition Denali Team Members (From L to R): Rosemary Saal, Scott Briscoe, Ryan Mitchell, Erica Wynn, Stephen DeBerry, Stephen Shobe, Billy Long, Tyrhee Moore, Adina Scott

In addition to the documentary, NOLS will be conducting Project Inspiration, a field marketing outreach program to schools and organizations to increase visibility of the expedition.

However, given the powerful, reverberating echo of media and its ability to trigger conversation and spark awareness to the farthest corners of our planet, the documentary project holds the greatest promise to take this message to the broadest of audiences.

This project is for anyone who has tapped into the transformative, inspirational, healing power of our natural environment. Choose to participate, be part of the process, make a pledge now. -- Thank You.

The Expedition -- Learn more about Expedition Denali 

The TeamMeet the mountaineers, a team of people from all over the United States who are role models in their own right, championing diversity and change. The Expedition Denali team includes not only the mountaineers who will be making the summit bid, but individuals who are passionate about diversity in the outdoors and want to support this endeavor by fundraising, blogging, writing, and spreading the word to their own networks.

The Partners – Thanks to all of the partners and sponsors that are making this expedition happen. Additional partners and sponsors are welcome.

10,000 Steps – The longest and most strenuous day on Denali will be the summit day, a five-mile trip up and back to High Camp. Five miles is roughly equal to 10,000 steps. During the team’s ascent, NOLS plans to partner with organizations nationwide to rally youth on the ground to hike their own “10,000 Steps to Denali” in wild places near their homes to commemorate this historic event.

Project Inspiration - Learn more about your organization hosting an inspirational presentation given by the expedition team, post-climb.

Funds Distribution - Dollars raised will be divided by the percentages represented in these nine categories.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

The summit is more than 20,000 feet above sea level, and even in the middle of the summer, it can prove to be very challenging with severe snow storms and prolonged sub-freezing temperatures. To capture Expedition Denali’s journey on film, our film crew will need to carry an average of 100 pounds of gear through this environment before they even pick up a camera, and they’ll need to be every bit as fit and trained as the nine core team members and NOLS guides.

Even with all of that, getting up the mountain will be the easy part. Our team has expedition experience, is currently in training, and we’re up for the challenge.

After we get back down, the real work begins. In the 12 months that follow, we’ll need to edit hundreds of hours of footage into a 60-90 minute film, continue to raise awareness of the project and demand for the movie, and submit to film festivals.

The road to success on this project will be long, but we’re ready. We believe this is the most important project of our lives.

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NOLS is raising funds for Distill Productions to film this expedition. These restricted gifts are tax deductible through NOLS, a 501(c)3 organization, who is making this expedition possible.

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    Don't have a lot to spend, but want to help the cause? Even at $1, you'll have our immense gratitude and receive a HUGE thank you and peace of mind that you’ve helped to support this documentary.

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    You'll receive everything above plus a professional photo of the expedition team, something for you to keep as a memento of your support in our shared success. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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    This is getting awesome! Exclusive, limited print Expedition Denali trucker's hat. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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    Flags have been a part of mountaineering culture for decades, from coats of arms to national flags to symbolic colors, alpinists have used flags to show others who they are and what they represent with a single, identifying image. Expedition Denali is no different, with your pledge of $125 or more, you'll get an exact replica of Expedition Denali Summit Flag. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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    Thanks to The North Face, here's another great reward at the $250 level! Receive a "Base Camp Duffel" just like the team will be using. These things are amazingly useful and last forever. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3, and 4.

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    Receive a backpack similar (but smaller) to the one Expedition Denali Climbers will use, made by The North Face. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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    How sweet is this! You'll get an REI Expedition Denali logoed puffy jacket as worn by the Expedition Denali climbers. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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    It just keeps getting better. After the expedition, you'll have the opportunity to personally Skype the Expedition Denali team members with your friends, business or school group. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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    If you plan to spend some time in the backcountry (or anywhere), you need to be prepared. Get a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course and you (or someone you know) will be prepared for the unexpected. Taught by seasoned NOLS instructors in a two or two and a half day format, most WFA courses are held on a weekend. Learning takes place both in the classroom and in outdoor settings regardless of weather conditions. This prize is transferable as a gift or donation to a friend or organization of your choice as well. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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    Get a real piece of the Expedition with a signed, original Expedition Denali Summit Flag that is carried up the mountain by the team. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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    This is a collector's item. You'll receive four pieces of climbing equipment (ice ax, rope, crampons, etc.) used by the athletes on the mountain, framed with a signed photo of the team. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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    Receive a replica USGS benchmark medallion from North America's highest peak, commemorating this historic event. Your benchmark will be displayed in a desk frame with a photo of the Expedition Denali team and an engraved plaque commemorating their ascent. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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    After we summit, we're coming to you to share the experience and significance of Expedition Denali directly. With this pledge, one or more of the Expedition Denali climbers will visit your classroom, business or community center anywhere in the US, to deliver their story and mission in-person. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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    Experience the backcountry for yourself or for someone you designate. You'll receive a 30-day, fully transferable NOLS Wind River course. Learn backcountry skills, develop your leadership and hike incredible backcountry with the best outdoor instructors in the world. (Physical required for acceptance) Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4. http://www.nols.edu/courses/locations/rockymtn/windriverwilderness.shtml

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    Become an executive producer of the Expedition Denali documentary film with your own credit at the beginning of the film. Plus rewards 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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