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Clarkson grad, student scaling 46 high peaks to promote conquering depression

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POTSDAM - A Clarkson University student and a recent graduate plan to hike all 46 high peaks of New York’s Adirondack mountains later this summer to represent the challenges of conquering depression and suicide.

Kolby Ziemendorf ‘14, of Penfield, and Catherine Zarnofsky ‘14, of Glenville, hope to raise awareness of suicide prevention by hiking all 46 High Peaks during National Suicide Prevention Week from Sept. 8 to 14. The hikers will embark on an “ultra-marathon” of more than 140 miles through the mountain range.

“The mental and physical challenge we will be up against will be harder than anything we have ever done,” Ziemendorf said. “46 Climbs is symbolic to the cause because the view at the base of a mountain may look overwhelming, but the perspective at the top is much different. Your perseverance is rewarded with a spectacular view and you are stronger for conquering the challenge.”

Suicide prevention is a topic that is often overlooked because it’s hard to talk about, said Zarnofsky, who recently graduated from Clarkson’s business program. She hopes their event can bring attention to medical research for people suffering from depression.

“Because people aren’t talking about it, it’s hard for people to get the help they need,” she said. “A lot of people don’t understand that there is research going into medication and therapeutic techniques for treatment of depression, anxiety and suicide.”

Both Ziemendorf and Zarnofsky have known people touched by depression and suicide. Ziemendorf, a mechanical engineering major and sustainable energy systems minor, said after the suicides of high school classmates and later suicide attempts of friends, he developed 46 Climbs with the goal of preventing others from suffering.

“Through experiencing these events, I realized how many people are affected by one loss as well as how little people talk about this topic,” he said. “Suicide takes the lives of more than 30,000 Americans a year. For every one suicide, six people are intimately affected.”

Matt Draper, deputy director of Clarkson’s Shipley Center for Innovation, said the center has worked with the hikers to assist them with their business model, develop a logo and provide funding for marketing materials, website and other equipment. He said the Shipley Center seeks to accelerate the commercialization of exciting concepts and ideas such as this.

“46 Climbs represents the not-for-profit side of the start-up world, creating a company focused on impacting people directly,” Draper said. “We seek to support innovators and entrepreneurs from idea to market entry, injecting resources and services as needed in order to bring these ideas to life. Both Kolby and Catherine have made great strides towards their vision for this project and we are looking forward to tracking their progress as they tackle all 46 peaks in September.”

Zarnofsky said the Shipley Center has been a great resource for them to get their marathon up and running.

“The Shipley Center has been a great help, and now we’re on our own feet and we’ve got the hang of everything,” she said.

Ziemendorf, who is the president of the Clarkson University Outing Club, said some club members are assisting them by taking gear out to the backcountry. The hikers plan to only carry water, snacks and lunch, so they can arrive to a prepared campsite after a full day of hiking.

“We are extremely thankful for those helping us as it would be extremely hard to complete the event on time without them,” he said.

The hikers aim to raise $10,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Follow their progress at http://www.46climbs.com/ .

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