Retired Air Force colonel dedicates time to helping Virginians in need

David Ashley, of Arlington, Virginia, poses at the summit of Arizona’s tallest Mountain, Mount Humphreys. He donated a kidney to a fellow West Point graduate and now has the goal of becoming the first living kidney donor to climb the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. (Courtesy David Ashley)
David Ashley, of Arlington, Virginia, poses with a plush kidney during a bike ride. (Courtesy David Ashley)
David Ashley, of Arlington, Virginia, at work for the Arlington Department of Human Services. He worked at a local hotel housing at-risk homeless people during the pandemic. (Courtesy David Ashley)

A retired U.S. Air Force Colonel — whose travel plans were canceled when the coronavirus pandemic began — decided to spend his time helping local Virginians who needed help the most.

David Ashley, 46, is a volunteer at heart.

After donating a kidney to a fellow West Point graduate three years ago, he had the goal of being the first living kidney donor to climb the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, also known as the “Seven Summits.”

“I have not looked back. I’ve been such a happier person with myself,” Ashley said.

After climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the coronavirus pandemic canceled all of his travel plans.

“My wife politely suggested that I should try to find something to do outside of the house, so we got a good chuckle out of that, but she was right,” Ashley said.

He registered to volunteer with the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps and was assigned to work at a hotel near his home Arlington County used to house high-risk homeless people.

The opportunity was through the Arlington Department of Human Services. They eventually hired him as a temporary employee.

“I felt better about being away from home quite so much and working nights and weekends but I didn’t feel comfortable keeping the money from that,” Ashley said.

He donated all $4,500 of his earnings to Purple Heart Summits, a program that combines mentoring combat-wounded veterans with mountain climbing.

But he didn’t stop there.

Ashley also signed up to volunteer with Team Rubicon for military veterans. After completing some online training, he received a call in June and they asked him to go out to West Virginia to help with families suffering from extensive flooding.

“I volunteered for five days and learned how to do a muck out,” Ashley said.

He said that he likes to set a good example for his two daughters, ages 17 and 18.

Volunteering to him, he said, is about following through on being a well-rounded person.

“If you think something and say something but your actions don’t mirror that, that’s disharmony. But when you say something and think it and do all the same, you go to bed every night as a real happy person,” Ashley said.

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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