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Former soldier sets out on ‘awesome journey’ to Mt. Kilimanjaro to support Calgary veterans

WATCH: A former soldier is heading off from Calgary to the other side of the world to help his fellow veterans at home. As Gil Tucker shows us, he’s tackling a sky-high challenge to help meet a down-to-earth daily need.

It’s always one of the busiest times of the day at the Veterans Association Food Bank in northeast Calgary – volunteers gathering around bins and tables to sort through the donations.

“We have everything from pasta to soup,” Allan Hunter said. “Butter chicken, some Chinese food there, just a little bit of everything.”

Many of the volunteers are themselves military veterans, coming together to support others struggling after a return to civilian life.

READ MORE: Food bank for Calgary veterans to be revived by volunteers

“I never realized before how many veterans were out there who needed help,” Tom MacCarl said.

“Oh, the need is huge!” Hunter said.

“This food bank is keeping our brothers and sisters alive,” Mike Nelson said.

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One of the volunteers is now trying to give their efforts a boost by tackling a sky-high challenge.

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READ MORE: Calgary students try to ‘fill the Boeing’ for Veterans Food Bank

Johann Jeppe is a veteran who served with the military in his native South Africa, before he relocated to Canada in 1997.

Now a Canadian citizen, Jeppe is now going back to Africa on a trip to raise money for the Veterans Association Food Bank and to raise the spirits of those who count on its support.

“[I’m going] to climb Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa, just under 20,000 feet.” Jeppe said. “It’s very cold up there, it snows up there sometimes,

“I know it’s going to be tough.”

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READ MORE: Calgary family starts campaign to make sure war vets don’t go hungry

Part of his fundraising campaign involves selling a custom-designed commemorative coin.

“It’s got a Kilimanjaro Trek [image] with a soldier and the mountain in the background,” Jeppe said. “And on the other side is the food bank logo – ‘Veterans Helping Veterans'”

Jeppe is also taking along the Veterans Association Food Bank flag to the top of Kilimanjaro.

“I ask guys to sign the flag, because that’s a sign [that] I’m taking your [psychological] baggage with me,” Jeppe said. “There are guys with PTSD, so when we’re up there we’ll take a picture and there’s your baggage – we’re leaving it [at the summit].”

READ MORE: Calgary kids promote project to house homeless veterans: ‘We need to help them be safe’

“It’s an awesome journey, the fact you’re taking a journey for so many veterans,” Hunter told Jeppe.

“All of us will be there with you in spirit – it’s an incredible thing that you’re doing,’ Hunter said.

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“I’m just hoping that all my troubles stay on the mountain and I can get rid of them down here,” MacCarl said. “Believe me, it’s going to help me.”

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Jeppe will be keeping his fellow veterans in mind every step of the way on his trek up to the summit.

“There are so many veterans out there that are hungry and in need,” he said.

Jeppe leaves Calgary on Oct. 23 to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. You can find out more information on how to donate by reaching out at info.vafb@gmail.com.