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Honoring Magna at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro

Unfurling the Magna flag at the 19,341-foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania was a mark of accomplishment for John Sajan and his son Simon, representing endurance, determination and a bold statement of respect for the company.

Mountaineers consider raising a flag the final step in pursuit of a challenging goal. Like other intrepid hikers who have climbed Africa’s tallest mountain, the Sajans have the photos to prove it.

“I was looking for something unique to do at the top of the mountain,” explained John Sajan, the Magna global program manager for thermoplastic liftgates. “The Magna flag clicked for me. I imagine displaying the photo in my office and saying ‘Taking Magna to new heights.’”

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Simon Sajan, a Michigan State University junior, Eagle Scout and a Magna scholarship winner who is completing his second company internship in late August, calls the July flag raising a “great moment.”

Like all great moments, it required a lot of planning, right down to where to stash the white Magna flag in their gear.

“I was carrying a 20-pound backpack filled with snacks, four liters of water, a camera and hiking poles,” said John Sajan. “I put the Magna flag in the front outside pouch of the backpack so it was very easy to get to. You’ve got brain fog at 19,000 feet and it takes a lot of energy to do even small things. I knew I had to make the flag accessible so I could grab it and go.”

He added: “Flying the flag was important because Magna has been good to me. I like the people, the company and the culture. My son is now on a path to becoming a full-time Magna employee. What better way to honor the company than taking it to the roof of Africa.”

Mount Kilimanjaro, a snow-capped volcano, is the world’s largest freestanding mountain. The Magna flag was raised at Uhuru, the Swahili word for “freedom,” and the highest point on Kibo, the summit of the mountain. The entire trek took 7-1/2 days, including a 15-hour push to get to the summit, which was undertaken in the dark after just four hours of sleep at base camp.

“You get to the peak at sunrise,” said John Sajan. “You see nature and a beautiful untouched landscape. The air is so clean and the skies are clear. It makes you think about the impact we have on our planet and our need to protect it. You realize there is a link with what we do at Magna.”

While the father-son duo has completed other climbs, including 12,000-foot Baldy Mountain, the highest peak in New Mexico’s Cimarron Range, and 9,000-foot Mount Ruapehu, an active volcano in New Zealand, they say just about anyone could conquer challenging peaks.

“Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro builds confidence,” said John Sajan, an avid bicyclist who logs 20 miles on his ride six days a week. “It makes me tough. I can overcome challenges. When you put your mind to it and properly prepare, anyone can climb a mountain.”

Adds his son: “After a certain point, your mentality gets you over the line. It’s all about your focus on getting to the top.”

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