Friday mornings at five a.m., Ruth Cardona begins her two-hour run in the 100-degree weather of Abu Dhabi. She works out like this every day.
From circuit training to conditioning to outdoor running in extreme weather conditions, Cardona is preparing for something that in some ways she can't prepare for.
She plans to climb the 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania. The mountain attracts 35,000 tourists annually who try to reach the peak. Many fail, inflicted by hypothermia and altitude sickness.
"As much as it is a physical challenge, it's also mental. Just like struggling to finish an exercise, you have to dig deep and push yourself to find the motivation within," Cardona said.
A Brookfield native currently pursuing a UW-Whitewater online master's degree in business administration, Cardona will climb Mount Kilimanjaro in August to raise money for The Small Things - Nkoaranga Orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. She's already raised more than $5,000.
"I've been in touch with them for the past year and have always had a desire to help orphans and children in need," Cardona said.
The Small Things is a nonprofit organization working to fundraise and provide resources for orphans in poverty-stricken areas of the world. The organization has been working with the Nkoaranga Orphanage since 2010.
The organization's social media presence, Cardona said, is what motivated her to learn more about the cause and what she could do to help.
"I wanted to raise money for an orphanage that was registered as a U.S. nonprofit, but not so big that money gets lost in bureaucracy," Cardona said. "I feel like I've been very blessed in my life and I want to give to others in need."
While this will be her first time traveling somewhere so physically challenging, Cardona is not a stranger to exploring the world.
While completing her Bachelor of Arts in international affairs at George Washington University, Cardona studied abroad at American University in Dubai.
She has traveled to more than 25 countries on five continents, some of them several times.
Since graduating from George Washington University in 2006, Cardona has been living in the United Arab Emirates and working at Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
Before the climb, Cardona will visit Nkoaranga Orphanage to meet the children she is supporting.
"I think this will be one of the highlights of this whole experience," Cardona said. "It will give me motivation to reach the summit because it will serve as a reminder of the greater purpose of all this."
Cardona hopes to inspire the UW-Whitewater community with her quest.
"Be selfless, give back to the world," she said. "This can be in your own back yard, community or anywhere in the world. Just find a cause your passionate about."
To donate to Ruth Cardona's fundraiser and follow her journey to Mount Kilimanjaro, visit this link >>
-- Written by Jonathan Fera; submitted photos are of Cardona in Botswana, Kenya and Uganda