Stacey Kozel was always an athlete and never had reason to doubt that her body would do anything she asked of it. Then, in 2014, a bout with Lupus left her paralyzed from the waist down. When her insurance company denied her the braces needed to walk, she embarked on a journey to regain her mobility. Through a months-long battle against insurance regulations, and after losing appeal after appeal, Stacey persevered and began physical therapy. Two years later, she decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. Her motivation was to celebrate her ability to move, and to take advantage of every second of it, knowing that another resurgence of the disease could take even more of her ability to move away. She went on to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2016 and was a featured speaker at our 2016 Summit.
In 2017, Stacey spent the much of her time hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail before finding herself in the middle of a whirlwind of controversy. A group of long-distance hikers, finding it hard to believe that she is capable of such a journey, accused her of misrepresenting her hike. The months that followed were painful as Stacey found her integrity and honesty challenged. However, she refused to let those difficulties stop her and began 2018 by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.
On Friday evening, Stacey talked about the challenges she has faced both on and off the trail as well as what it is like to stand atop Stella Point, 18,885 feet above sea level, on Mount Kilimanjaro.