Sunday, July 22, 2018
News Roundup

Local attorney reaches new heights while raising money for Academy Prep

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

It's a concept most of us can only imagine, but for divorce and family attorney Nancy Harris, it's a way of life.

She has been leaving her comfort zone since she was a competitive swimmer in school, shaking off jitters atop a starting block as she waited for the starting whistle.

And, at age 61, she's still leaving that comfort zone, pushing herself to her mental and physical limits, climbing the world's tallest mountains and trekking across England and Corsica.

And, in between her climbs and treks, she coaxes clients out of their comfort zones to resolve differences out of court — through mediation or collaboration — as a partner in the Tampa-St. Petersburg law firm of Harris and Hunt, P.A.

A bad back . . .

Harris' can-do approach to life has its drawbacks. Years of competitive swimming — the butterfly stroke — and a skiing accident resulted in surgery to fuse three neck vertebrae in 2005.

The surgery brought on periodic back spasms so painful they were crippling. The solution to that? Strengthen your core and your back, her doctor told her.

And, to do that, would not require a yoga mat for Harris, a petite ball of fire who looks 10 years younger than she is.

"I set a crazy goal of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro," she said while sitting at her desk in her Tampa office, which looks out over downtown and the Hillsborough River and is filled with Clyde Butcher photos.

"My husband thought I was crazy until he knew I was serious. I thought it was a very cool idea to make me get my back in shape," she said.

And so she started training. She walked around and climbed stairs wearing a heavy backpack. She exercised on an elliptical machine.

And, in 2010, she and seven strangers from around the world climbed more than 19,000 feet to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain, which is located in Tanzania. It took seven days to get up and two to get down.

"It was hard," she said, but worth the mental and physical challenge it takes to succeed at something.

"Everyone is going to fall," she said. "It's how you pick yourself up that matters. If you challenge yourself, you are going to fall."

Bitten by the climbing bug, she continued her global treks in 2011. She and her husband and a couple she had met on the Kilimanjaro climb went on the Tour du Mont Blanc, trekking the Alps for six days from France to Italy and Switzerland.

After those climbs, back problems assuaged, Harris was on a trip to England where friends told her it is common for people to raise money for charity while accomplishing feats like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

That gave her an idea. Her next climb would be to the base camp of Mount Everest, and she would raise money for something close to her heart, Academy Prep, a private school for fifth- through eighth-graders. (See far right.)

"It only seemed right that if I was going to set an outrageous goal for myself, I should do it also to help others," she said.

Staying fit, looking ahead

So, in 2013, she and two friends raised almost $20,000 for the school by climbing more than 17,000 feet to the base camp of Mount Everest.

Few people climb the last 12,000 feet to the summit because it is extremely difficult and dangerous, Harris said.

The base camp was dangerous itself. Two years after Harris made the climb, an avalanche buried 19 people under a wall of snow.

"You could hear avalanches in the distance during the night when we were there," Harris said.

"It was 5 degrees — without the wind chill. I would wake up with ice crusted on my face," she said.

Her most important piece of gear? A face scarf, she said.

"You get really used to being efficient with movements at a 50 percent oxygen level," she said.

Mount Everest wasn't the end of her travels.

In 2014, she and five friends hiked 192 miles on the Coast to Coast Walk across England. Trekking from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, the women raised $24,000 for Academy Prep.

In 2016, she and three friends hiked the toughest long-distance trail — 112 miles — in Europe, the GR20. It crosses Corsica diagonally through all sorts of terrain from north to south. As beautiful to see as it is difficult to cross, hikers have to be fit and confident they can traverse any terrain. They raised $10,000 for Academy Prep.

Harris recalls the parallels between that tough hike and the tough road Academy Prep students face.

"Students go one step at a time, just as we had to.

"Corsica is always trying to gain its independence. Academy Prep students want to be independent," she said.

Her next trip, 12 days in a tour group with the same friends with whom she crossed Corsica, will be in October to Bhutan, a mountainous, high-altitude country on the eastern edge of the Himalayan Mountains that remains steeped in traditional Buddhist culture.

"We are looking for something that hasn't been spoiled. We are looking for Zen. We want a dose of Zen," she said.

Living life to the fullest

While Harris' own beginnings were nothing like those of the students at Academy Prep — she was the daughter of a doctor — she realizes how important the life lessons learned in school are.

She and her sisters swam on the first all-girls swim team at the Academy of the Holy Names, where her first coach taught her a lesson that guides her to this day: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

That's why it is so important to her to open doors to students who want to learn and grow and be part of a larger community. She wants to open doors to schools like Academy Prep, where underprivileged students, who normally would not have the means to attend, can go.

"The school has a liberal arts focus," she said. "Every student there has to learn three things: martial arts, chess and Shakespeare. All things that make you think."

The students leave Academy Prep after eighth grade but it doesn't leave them. The school helps them get into the high school of their choice and also helps get them into college.

"We want them to be ever reaching new heights," Harris said.

Contact Patti Ewald at [email protected]

     
   
Comments
Tiger Woods was in British Open hunt. Now another major win doesn’t seem so improbable.

Tiger Woods was in British Open hunt. Now another major win doesn’t seem so improbable.

He was in the hunt. For real.False alarm?Did you care?For what seemed like days (it wasn't even an hour), Tiger Woods sat atop a leaderboard at a golf major Sunday.With everyone fading, he was 7 under and all alone at the British Open at Carnoustie w...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Francesco Molinari wins British Open on crazy day at Carnoustie

Francesco Molinari wins British Open on crazy day at Carnoustie

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Francesco Molinari played a steady hand amid the cheers for Tiger Woods and another crazy ending at Carnoustie to win the British Open on Sunday and become Italy's first major champion.Woods brought pandemonium by chargin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Reactions vary to new USF football uniforms

Reactions vary to new USF football uniforms

Public sentiment remained mixed late Sunday afternoon on the new USF football uniforms unveiled earlier in the day.A brief video of Bulls TE Mitch Wilcox modeling an all-forest green version of the uniforms was released on the football program's offi...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Daniel Robertson hits pinch-hit walkoff grand slam to lift Rays over Marlins

Daniel Robertson hits pinch-hit walkoff grand slam to lift Rays over Marlins

ST. PETERSBURG — Daniel Robertson hit a pinch-hit walkoff grand slam, and the Rays rallied to beat the Marlins 6-4 Sunday at Tropicana Field.It's the first walkoff grand slam in Rays history and the second walkoff hit of Robertson's major-leagu...
Updated: 2 hours ago
South Tampa softball all-stars head to Southeast Regional

South Tampa softball all-stars head to Southeast Regional

TAMPA — Emilee Mezrah could have been on vacation in the Bahamas playing in the surf.Instead she’s on vacation in Georgia playing softball in the dirt.Beach vs. softball …"I chose softball," said Mezrah, a seventh grader at Coleman Middle School. "Ri...
Updated: 4 hours ago
NAACP to hold vigil for man killed in ‘stand your ground’ shooting Thursday

NAACP to hold vigil for man killed in ‘stand your ground’ shooting Thursday

A local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is holding a vigil Sunday for a black man who was killed Thursday in what authorities are calling a "stand your ground" shooting.The vigil for the family of Markeis McGl...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Duck boat tragedy kills nine members of the same family

Duck boat tragedy kills nine members of the same family

BRANSON, Mo. - The Coleman family had initially thought of going on a vacation to Florida for their annual trip, but the drive was too long for some elderly relatives who wanted to join. The Colemans settled on going to Branson, a southwestern Missou...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Trump’s Putin fallout: Inside the White House’s tumultuous stretch of walk backs

Trump’s Putin fallout: Inside the White House’s tumultuous stretch of walk backs

WASHINGTON - Executive time began early on Thursday, just after sunrise.Feeling exasperated and feisty as he awoke in the White House residence, President Donald Trump firedoff his grievances on Twitter about how the media had been covering his Helsi...
Updated: 7 hours ago
At beach resorts, this bizarre sunscreen booth can mean business

At beach resorts, this bizarre sunscreen booth can mean business

Nothing will ruin your beach vacation faster than a sunburn.Get scorched, and suddenly everything that was meant to be fun isn’t: Massages at the spa hurt, day-drinking by the pool hurts, getting on jet skis hurts. Listening to your skincare-obsessed...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Pasco Sheriff’s Office releases names of two killed in apparent murder-suicide Saturday

Pasco Sheriff’s Office releases names of two killed in apparent murder-suicide Saturday

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office have released the names of two people killed in what investigators believe was a murder-suicide Saturday.At about 1 p.m. Saturday, Alisa Medovich, 23, of Holiday, was shot and killed by Mario Medina...
Updated: 1 hour ago