Nat Gallen holds lofty ambitions — literally. The 14 year old, who has cystic fibrosis, looks forward to someday climbing Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak.
An experienced hiker and climber with his dad, John, he dreamt up the aspiration after spotting a photo of the mountain while flipping through a book at his elementary school library. “I know inside that I’m going to achieve that goal someday,” he says confidently.
Experienced hiker and climber Nat Gallen, 14, who has CF, dreams of climbing Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro.
With Nat, that sort of drive is par for the course; to call him “energetic” is an understatement. “I don’t like to sit down,” he admits.
Nat was diagnosed with CF soon after birth — but that’s never slowed him down, confirms his mom, Lisa. “From the time he was born, Nat crawled everywhere — he just does and goes,” she says. “At one and a half years old, he was out in our front yard running and dribbling the soccer ball as if it was walking.”
Staying Active in Sports and School
The natural athlete has played soccer ever since and travels most weekends with his club team. On his birthday this fall, Nat’s team won a Philadelphia-area league championship.
Nat’s love of sports also includes baseball, basketball, running and skiing. A couple of years ago, he picked up lacrosse, which is now his favorite sport. “It’s a lot of fun because it’s so aggressive and there’s a lot of running,” he says.
Next year, when he’s a high school freshman, he plans to join his older brother, Sam, on the golf team.
His exercise complements a daily regimen that involves waking up around 6 a.m. to complete 20 minutes of chest vest therapy and nebulizer treatments. “I use that time to watch SportsCenter on ESPN,” he says.
Nat is just as motivated in school as he is on the field. He serves as the president of his junior high school’s Student Council, an honor he held in sixth grade as well. Among his responsibilities, he organizes school fundraisers, from a Halloween-themed dance to a winter carnival complete with a snowboard simulator.
Nat (right) loves sports—“he just does and goes,” mom Lisa says.
Giving Back to the CF Community
Fundraising success runs in the family. Nat’s parents, Lisa and John, have chaired the Reading, Pennsylvania, Great Strides walk since 1999, helping to raise more than $300,000 over the years — some $10,000-$20,000 yearly from their team alone, mostly inspired by Lisa’s annual letter-writing campaign that offers heartfelt updates on Nat’s health.
“Great Strides is probably my favorite day of the year,” Nat says. “It’s amazing how it’s grown, and you can really tell how much people care about you when they show up for a walk like this.”
It’s no wonder Nat draws a crowd; his enthusiasm sparks smiles wherever he goes. “I can do everything that a normal person can do,” he says, matter-of-factly.
And when he does conquer Kilimanjaro? “I’ll know that I can do anything I set out to do, and that CF can’t hold me back from my dreams.”
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