Nine police officers across Connecticut are back on the job after conquering Africa's tallest mountain.
"I cannot think of a word to describe it," said Putnam Detective Donna Brown. "It was just unbelievable."
Brown was one of 12 people on the Conquering Kilimanjaro team, nine of whom were police officers from Connecticut. Two police officers from New Jersey were also on the team along with a civilian from Guilford. All 12 people climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for Special Olympics Connecticut.
"I am short of breath again, just thinking about it," said Cheshire Police Officer David Maliar, looking over pictures from the trip.
Maliar said the experience was breathtaking, both for the views and the extremely high altitudes. The team hiked up more than 19,000 feet in four days. It took them two days to make it down the mountain.
Officers from Cheshire, Guilford, Naugatuck, Putnam, Watertown, Wilton, and New Jersey have raised more than $150,000.
Police departments across the state have always had a positive relationship with SOCT. They partner with the organization for an annual torch run fundraiser.
"It gives everyone a positive experience in sports which is what's so important, to make sure the first experience you have is a good one so you keep coming back," Jackie Turro, senior director of special events for SOCT told NBC Connecticut in February. "Special Olympics lets people have longer, healthier, happier lives, so who's not excited about that?"
For Maliar, though, the bond to SOCT runs deeper. Before he was an officer he taught his friend Max, who is now a gold medal-winning Special Olympian, how to swim.
Maliar heard about police officers running Mt. Kilimanjaro fundraisers for other charities and wanted to do the same thing for SOCT.
"It was symbolic because the Special Olympians, they climb mountains everyday," said Brown.
The journey was not easy. The team had to hike through four different climates and pack accordingly.
They carried a Special Olympics Connecticut flag with them the entire journey. Both Brown and Maliar said it was always a comforting sight.
"You had that in the forefront," said Brown. "It was a constant reminder. You knew why you were doing this."
The team is still raising funds. You can learn more about their efforts here.