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Mark is reaching higher as he goes from Highland to even higher land

Over the course of Mark Toney’s nearly 20-year career at GSK, he has worn many hats, including sales professional. Most recently, the hat that has made him the proudest is the one that simply reads: GSK.

Sometimes inspiration is born in an everyday moment, for Mark it happened during a visit to his school library.

“I remember the day vividly – I spent most of my time in the library monkeying around with my buddies and I could feel the librarian’s glare so - at the last minute – I grabbed the first book I saw. It just so happened to have a mountain on the cover.”

Forty years later Mark stepped foot on that same mountain – Mt. Everest.

With support of GSK, Mark left his job in Highland for six weeks to follow his dream. After a 20-hour flight, he arrived in Katmandu, Nepal, and then caught a turbo prop into Lukla. From there, he began his adventure hiking 6-8 hours a day for 7 days to reach the base camp of Mt. Everest.

With the goal of reaching Camp 3 (24,000 ft), Mark was ready both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, he was at the mercy of Mother Nature. Despite his determination, passion, and courage – the weather conditions didn’t permit a climb and Mark was unable to reach his goal – he settled for climbing two neighboring peaks.

“I respect the majesty of the mountain, so I knew I shouldn’t risk it. Although disappointed, I also knew I had the power to change the course of my dream. Instead of “settling” for smaller climbs, I found a way to make my adventure about more than myself.”

So Mark traveled to Namche Bazaar (in Nepal) to answer what was perhaps a higher calling – even higher than Mt. Everest.

Mark – who had spent 10 years as a science teacher prior to joining GSK – trekked to the only village school carrying 2 microscopes and enough materials to teach science to 80 kids in a small school house with no electricity.

“It’s ironic that I traveled all that way to climb the highest peak in the world and, although I didn’t achieve that specific goal, I left knowing that I achieved something greater. For three days I taught kids the wonder of science. In a town that relies so heavily on tourism, I know that most of the children there will become porters (carrying bags for tourists) but every year they are in school is one in which they can unlock even more potential.”

Today, Mark continues in his role as a vaccines Sales Professional and, although he still loves to climb, his passion for doing more to help teach kids the love of science, is what will keep him coming back to the mountain.

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