First U.S. Teen With Down Syndrome Reaches Mt. Everest Base Camp

International   |   Andrew Bair   |   Apr 2, 2013   |   5:13PM   |   Washington, DC

A courageous young man from Oregon made history with the first recorded account of an American teenager with Down syndrome to reach a base camp of Mt. Everest. After nearly two weeks of walking, 15-year old Eli Reimer reached 17,600 feet. Eli’s father, Justin, joined his son for the ascent in an effort to raise funds for their family’s charity, The Elisha Foundation.

“It was surreal,” Justin Reimer told HLN in an interview. “To be standing there at that place and see the smile on Eli’s face and the sense of accomplishment that he had, and the fact that his health was better than any of us at that point… it was humbling, it was inspiring, just an amazing moment.”

The father and son duo ultimately raised $85,000 for The Elisha Foundation, which says it offers professional and educational support to families with special-needs children.

“For anybody who has a child with a disability or who is impacted in some way … the disability is not a limitation,” said Justin Reimer, adding that Eli’s life “and the lives of those with disabilities have infinite worth.”

Tragically, ninety percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. This extreme form of discrimination against special needs kids has reached epidemic proportions in a society that places greater value on the perfect, the convenient and the planned.

The New York Times ran an editorial by Alison Piepmeier entitled “Outlawing Abortion Won’t Help Children with Down Syndrome.” Piepmeier defends discarding a child solely because he or she may have special needs.

Piepmeier’s concludes her piece saying, “Let women have abortions for whatever reason they choose, but make it a world they would like to bring a child into — even a child with an intellectual disability.”



The solution to our society’s problems cannot be ending the lives of those to whom problems happen. In order to create a society that truly respects people with special needs we must begin with protecting their fundamental right to life.

It is a sad commentary on the state of society that we would work hard to ensure educational or occupational opportunities for people with Down syndrome but still allow them to be ripped limb from limb in violent abortion procedures.

True progress cannot be achieved for people with special needs if we’re approaching the issue with the mindset that some people are better off dead than alive. As Eli Reimer’s father noted, “the lives of those with disabilities have infinite worth.” That is the starting point and from there we will build a society that respects people with Down syndrome at all stages of their lives.