Meet The 2024 Climbers

Reaching 19,342 ft in elevation, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, comprised of three dormant volcanic cones, and is classified as an extreme altitude mountain trek. The overall success rate for reaching the top of Kilimanjaro is 60%. The group will climb the Marangu, famously known as the “Coca-Cola Route,” the oldest path to the summit and the only route to offer dormitory-style accommodations. The 45-mile climb covers a diversity of terrain, including rainforest, moorland, and alpine desert, requiring climbers to adapt to conditions ranging from tropical to arctic throughout the 6-day hike. This trek is sure to be thrilling, breathtaking, and immensely rewarding!

The route starts at Marangu Gate, where climbers will encounter dense rainforests alive with Colobus monkeys, colorful tropical birds, and coffee plantations on their way to Mandara. They will then pass through rolling alpine hills dotted with giant heather, lobelia, and groundsel plants on the way to Horombo before transitioning into alpine deserts as they near Kibo. The terrain turns into icy arctic tundra during the last leg as climbers approach Uhuru Peak, the “Roof of Africa,” before descending via Barafu Camp and Mweka on their way back to Marangu Gate.

Jessy Heard

Northwest, Arkansas

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Her name is Jessy Heard, residing in Northwest Arkansas with her fiancé, Chris, and daughter, Brylee, alongside their two dogs and two cats. Jessy’s upbringing took place in the Bentonville/Bella Vista area, and she enlisted in the Arkansas Army National Guard as a Combat Medic in 2006, serving for 6 years. Transitioning thereafter, she made strides towards completing a college degree and delved into roles in communications, marketing, and events. Presently, she holds the position of Partnership Director for Bentonville Bike Fest, a role she’s dedicated to for the past four years. Additionally, she’s been an enthusiastic Sheep Dog Volunteer since 2021, particularly finding fulfillment in guiding mountain bike rides for veteran and first responder participants on the Outdoor Adventures program.

During the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, when events and experiential marketing faced challenges, Jessy took the opportunity to focus on her health through exercise and cycling. However, she was also contending with alcohol dependency. In 2021, she embarked on her sobriety journey after years of relying on alcohol as a coping mechanism. Three years sober now, Jessy engages in running, biking, and CrossFit, finding fulfillment in her relationships and professional endeavors. She values each day and strives to live fully, also sharing her testimony to inspire others to recognize the possibility of transformation and to seize a new lease on life.

Ron Redding

Ron Redding

Paris, Arkansas

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His name is Ronald (Ron) Redding. Originally from Paris, AR, he is happily married to his wife Monica, a school psychology specialist. Ron jests that he might just be her test subject! Together, they have a blended family of 5 grown children and are proud grandparents to 8 wonderful grandchildren, lovingly known as Papa Ron and Gigi.

Ron retired from the US Air Force as Chief Master Sergeant after serving for 33 years. His service included deployments in Operation Noble Eagle and Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as support for multiple Operation Southern and Northern Watch missions from bases in Italy and Saudi Arabia.

In addition to his military career, Ron also retired from the State of Arkansas, culminating as Deputy Fire Chief after 20 years of service. He served at Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center and at the 188th Wing.

Currently, Ron works as a government contractor, training Air Force Emergency Management/CBRN specialists in both upgrade and specialized CBRN response training.

Throughout his careers, Ron has been blessed to work alongside many outstanding Airmen and Firefighters. He remains dedicated to serving others, particularly veterans and first responders.

As a member of Sheep Dog Impact Assistance, Ron has participated in various activities, including delivering Thanksgiving meals and Christmas gifts to veterans and first responders in need, attending the Warrior PATHH program, assisting in disaster response missions, and engaging in numerous outdoor adventures such as river expeditions, Spartan Races, skydiving, scuba diving, and even an Aircraft Pull, among other SDIA events and Heroes Galas.

The opportunity to climb Mt Kilimanjaro with his fellow SheepDog teammates is something Ron considers a lifetime achievement. He sees it as a chance to motivate others while creating a lasting legacy for himself and his team.

Kila Legler

Kila Legler

Livingston, TN

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Her name is Kila Legler (pronounced Kyla), and she was born and raised in Livingston, Tennessee. At the age of 17, she joined the United States Marine Corps, serving in various locations including Knoxville, TN, Aurora CO, Camp Pendleton, CA, Jacksonville, NC, Sacramento, CA, New Orleans, LA, and deploying to Iraq & Afghanistan. The Marine Corps provided her with purpose, a sense of belonging, and numerous challenges, leading to a successful career and a cherished Marine Corps family.

After retiring from the Marine Corps in March 2023, Kila settled in Colorado. Embracing all that the state has to offer, from hiking and paddle boarding to biking and snowboarding, she has found hiking to be the most rewarding of these activities. It offers her a unique form of serenity and serves as her go-to for nature therapy.

Kila strongly believes in the importance of maintaining mental toughness and staying active. She understands that the mind can often be the biggest obstacle. Committed to proper training, cultivating resilience, and maintaining a positive attitude, not only for her own well-being but also to set a positive example for her daughter, Kila sees the opportunity to summit Mount Kilimanjaro as an extraordinary chance. It symbolizes her determination to conquer challenges, shaping a resilient mindset for the journey ahead.

James Hurn

Fletcher, NC

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James was born March 4, 1989 in Norfolk, VA.  When James was 6 years old, his family would move to San Diego, CA where James would live until he moved on his own to Western North Carolina in 2008 to attend Bible College and earn his Bachelors Degree in Biblical Studies.  James and his wife Jane got married prior to his graduation and settled in the community of Fletcher, NC where they still live today.
 
Service to God and Country has been part of the legacy of James’ family for generations and this desire to serve became part of James’ DNA as well.  In 2014, James was hired by the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office where he is still employed today.  During his time at the Sheriff’s Office, James has served in the Courthouse, Uniformed Patrol, and spent the past 7 years as a member of the Henderson County Drug Task Force and Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team until his recent assignment to General Investigations. 
 
James and his wife Jane have been married since 2011 and have 4 daughters.  Audrey, Eliza, Jacqueline, and Millie.  James and his family are active in their church Boiling Springs Baptist Church of Fletcher, NC and have served with Sheep Dog Impact Assistance since 2016. 
 
James enjoys all things outdoors and is honored to be given the opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with other Sheep Dogs.   James is excited to help his fellow climbers reach the top and not only looks forward to the challenge as an opportunity for personal growth but also as an opportunity to raise awareness for the challenges/issues faced by the First Responder Community. 
 

Jason Metcalf

Western north carolina

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His name is Jason Metcalf, residing in a small town in western North Carolina. He has been happily married to his wife, Kristina, for 27 years. Together, they have two grown sons; his oldest son joined the North Carolina Highway Patrol in 2019, while his youngest son pursued a career as a diesel mechanic.

From a young age, Jason aspired to become a North Carolina State Trooper, a dream he realized when he joined the Highway Patrol in October 2005. Throughout his career, he has undertaken various assignments across the state and achieved the rank of Sergeant in 2018. Jason has had the privilege of serving with and leading some of the finest Troopers North Carolina has to offer.

In January 2022, Jason became acquainted with Sheepdog and quickly gained profound respect for the assistance they provide to veterans and first responders. One of his goals through climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is to share his experience and raise awareness about Sheepdog among other first responders and veterans in need of support.

I joined the Marine Corps because I wasn’t ready for college and to continue a family legacy of military service. I want to be mentally and physically challenged with a group of like-minded individuals as we ascend one of the highest mountains in the world.  The sense of camaraderie, cohesion and accomplishment would be an incredible feeling that would last with me for the rest of my days on earth and I would be able to share this feat with my grandchildren one day. To conquer this climb would allow me to prove that age is only a number and proper preparations matters more now than ever.

Something unique about me is that when I was 24 years old, I ran a three-mile run in 16 minutes, 42 seconds. I also have some dancing and fighting skills because of how I was raised.

Liam Forge

Atlanta, TX

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His name is Will “Liam” Fuller, a 39-year-old medically retired Marine who served with 2nd Battalion 7th Marines. Since 2017, he has been involved with SDIA as their resident bladesmith, responsible for crafting their presentation axes, knives, swords, and more. Will’s initial encounter with SDIA as a participant was at the Circuit of The Americas Porsche driving experience. Subsequently, he participated in other Outdoor Adventures, eventually leading him to the Warriors Pathh program at Heroes Ranch. Inspired and motivated by everyone within the organization to do more and give back, Will was surprised and deeply honored when Lance called to invite him for the climb this year. This climb represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, made even more special by the chance to do it with close friends he made through SDIA.

Stuart Rowland

MOUNTAINBURG, AR

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Stuart (Stu) Rowland was born and raised in New England. He is a combat veteran that served in the Army National Guard from 2005-2011 deploying with Charlie Battery, 2/142nd field artillery to Talil, Iraq, from 2006 to 2008. Stu was a medic for the convoy escort team, Cold Steel 1/6, and logged roughly 75,000 miles driving across Iraq through some of the gnarliest roads and situations imaginable. In 2016, he founded a meal prep company called Clean Cookin’. 
Stu says his life really started at 30 because that was the year that he decided to take control of his life. Growing up in New England he lived a very active lifestyle and didn’t have any real issues with weight. When he turned 27, his newfound superhuman abilities to survive war and the belief that he was unstoppable propelled him into proving it by drinking and eating everything he could; he gained a lot of weight by the time he left the service in 2011. He was miserable, depressed, newly divorced and a single father. Change was afoot but he had no idea what form it would take. 
In 2013, he filed for disability with the VA. During the many tests and evaluations, one physical therapist called him out. She said, “You are 30 damn years old. There is nothing wrong with you. Go pick up some weights.” That was the moment he realized he needed to take control of his life and make changes, so he joined a CrossFit gym. He got strong physically but was still overweight and held onto all the negative emotions that he associated with himself; he got on YouTube and tried everything he read about – he went vegan, low fat, gluten free…and it worked – he lost nearly 100 pounds just by changing what he ate.  
When people heard how he lost weight, they wanted to eat the same foods, and his business literally popped up overnight. With this business, God also gave him a microphone. Through a series of very tragic events, he began the side of Clean Cookin’ that he is most proud of – the outreach. They began stocking three Ronald McDonald houses with food and created the Warrior Bowl for chemo patients; they match every Warrior Bowl purchase to the Reynolds Cancer Support House in Ft. Smith, meaning kids eat free. Clean Cookin’ works with many local non-profits, including Sheep Dog Impact Assistance (SDIA). Stu lives in mountainburg, AR, and is married to his beautiful and wonderful wife, Stefanie. They have two children, Xander and Ripley.

I joined the Marine Corps because I wasn’t ready for college and to continue a family legacy of military service. I want to be mentally and physically challenged with a group of like-minded individuals as we ascend one of the highest mountains in the world.  The sense of camaraderie, cohesion and accomplishment would be an incredible feeling that would last with me for the rest of my days on earth and I would be able to share this feat with my grandchildren one day. To conquer this climb would allow me to prove that age is only a number and proper preparations matters more now than ever.

Something unique about me is that when I was 24 years old, I ran a three-mile run in 16 minutes, 42 seconds. I also have some dancing and fighting skills because of how I was raised.

Phillip G. Zacher

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

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Gunnery Sergeant Phillip G. Zacher was born in St. Louis Missouri. Growing up, he spent as much
of his childhood as possible outdoors. Whether camping, fishing, hunting or hiking, he loves outdoor
adventures. Happily married to his wife Tiffany for seven years. Proud father of four children and
grandfather of two grandchildren.
Phil served in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Marine Corps Reserve from
1993 to 2013. Where he served in multiple roles for both the Company level and Battalion level
operations in training as well as combat operations. He is very proud to have had the opportunity to
serve his country and privileged to have the chance to serve with some of the finest warriors this
country has ever known. He holds his service very dear to his heart.
Phil has been around Sheepdog, both actively and inactively since its conception. He is very
excited for this opportunity to represent Sheepdog as well as all the amazing veterans that this
organization helps. Realizing the challenge that this adventure is, he believes the reward is well worth
the Challenge.
Phil is currently self-employed and since his time in the Marine Corps has worked extensively in
several industrial fields and specialized in electrical for industrial machinery.

Jeff Watts

Central, AR

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For the past eleven years, Jeff has been honored to be a leader with Sheep Dog Impact Assistance. He served as the Central AR Chapter Commander for six years and currently holds the position of Director of Continued Service & Disaster Response on the national staff.

Jeff’s decision to climb Mount Kilimanjaro represents the next challenge in his personal journey, sparked by a chapter in his life that saw him overcome the challenges of multiple back and knee surgeries, an eighty-pound weight loss, and a decision to return to a healthy lifestyle. Breaking free from the physical and mental confines of age, injury, and apathy, he discovered a renewed sense of strength and resilience within himself. The climb symbolizes the pinnacle of his commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and embracing challenges that push the boundaries of what is possible physically, psychologically, and spiritually. As he ascends Kilimanjaro, Jeff hopes to carry the lessons of perseverance, self-discovery, and profound gratitude for the extraordinary journey that brought him to this moment.

Jeff hopes to inspire those who feel trapped in a sedentary lifestyle and self-doubt, thinking that the opportunity to do something amazing has passed them by. He believes it is never too late to “GetOffTheCouch” and rediscover one’s purpose, demonstrating that it is possible to take back one’s life at any stage.

Phillip G. Zacher

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

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Gunnery Sergeant Phillip G. Zacher was born in St. Louis Missouri. Growing up, he spent as much
of his childhood as possible outdoors. Whether camping, fishing, hunting or hiking, he loves outdoor
adventures. Happily married to his wife Tiffany for seven years. Proud father of four children and
grandfather of two grandchildren.
Phil served in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Marine Corps Reserve from
1993 to 2013. Where he served in multiple roles for both the Company level and Battalion level
operations in training as well as combat operations. He is very proud to have had the opportunity to
serve his country and privileged to have the chance to serve with some of the finest warriors this
country has ever known. He holds his service very dear to his heart.
Phil has been around Sheepdog, both actively and inactively since its conception. He is very
excited for this opportunity to represent Sheepdog as well as all the amazing veterans that this
organization helps. Realizing the challenge that this adventure is, he believes the reward is well worth
the Challenge.
Phil is currently self-employed and since his time in the Marine Corps has worked extensively in
several industrial fields and specialized in electrical for industrial machinery.

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