Web killamanjaro

Ruddy’s aiming high for a good cause

By Ray O'Hanlon

And that's not even including the scenic backdrop.

Ruddy is leaving New York for Tanzania to take part in a trek to the top of Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro.

And he will be ascending the mighty peak in support of his favorite charity, Co-operation Ireland.

Since his arrival in New York almost five years ago, Ruddy has performed in eight off-Broadway productions and has directed five plays.

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In 2009 he won best director accolades for his work on "After Luke/When I was God," which ran at the Irish Repertory Theatre.

Recently, he picked up another award for best actor from the Independent Reviewers of New England for his one man show "Swansong," penned by Conor McDermottroe and presented with TirNa productions in Boston.

But Ruddy's mind is now focused on getting to a top rather than the top.

He will be flying to London in a few days from where he will travel on to East Africa.

"The ascent takes about six days allowing for time to acclimatize before tackling the final trek to the summit, almost 20,000 feet above sea level," Ruddy told the Echo.

The fundraising climb is officially dubbed "Trek Kilmanjaro," and if Ruddy is successful he will find himself standing higher than anyone on the continent, at the summit of a mountain that is the highest freestanding peak in the world, and in a place made famous in a book of short stories by Ernest Hemingway, and by a 1952 movie starring Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner.

"Co-operation Ireland is a charity organization whose mission is to advance mutual understanding and respect by promoting practical co-operation between the people of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland," explained Ruddy.

"It has delivered innovative and exciting cross-border and cross-community projects to a wide range of school, youth and community organizations.

"Groups are linked on a cross-border basis and through a series of reciprocal exchanges, they get to know one another, learn about each others' cultures and traditions and learn to respect one another. Through this model groups have an opportunity to discuss the often swept under the carpet topics of culture, identity and religion," he said.

Ruddy, a native of County Mayo who now calls Brooklyn home, is an experienced trekker and hill walker who cut his feet on the likes of Croagh Patrick.

"Nothing of this magnitude though. I'm really excited about the trek," he said.

Ruddy has set up a website, www.trek-kilimanjaro.com. The site includes a donate button for those who want to contribute to his Co-operation Ireland fundraiser. More details on the organization itself are available at www.cooperationireland.org.