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Trinity fourth-grader reaches Medicine Hole with help of father, friends

Trinity Elementary West fourth-grader Zeke Kreitinger rides in a backpack carried by his dad, Mike Kreitinger during the hike up to Medicine Hole in the Killdeer Mountains. (Submitted Photo)

KILLDEER MOUNTAINS—Trinity Elementary West fourth-grade teacher Mary Steiner thought it would be a good idea to take her students on an educational hike to the legendary Medicine Hole in the Killdeer Mountains.

However, she wasn't about to leave her student, Zeke Kreitinger, behind.

Zeke has been diagnosed with Ataxia telangiectasia, a rare neurodegenerative disease. He is the son of Mike and Becky Kreitinger of Dickinson.

"We knew he wouldn't be able to actually hike, so we worked out a plan with his parents," Steiner said. "They bought a backpack, which Mike used to carry Zeke on the hike."

Steiner's fourth-graders, along with Alli Schneider's fourth-graders from Trinity Elementary East, headed out to the Killdeer Mountains on Aug. 26. They received permission from the landowner to walk up the trail, as it is closed to the public.

"We teach North Dakota studies, so this was a great way to see some history of the Native American people and hike over some North Dakota landforms," Steiner said.

Zeke's full time aide, Nichole Zafke, was at his side to help along the journey.

"Zeke had a lot of fun going with his friends," Mike Kreitinger said. "The day was tiring for me. I thought I was a decent shape, but there's a difference in being in good walking shape and hauling 60 pounds up a hill. Downhill was worse. You're using different body muscles. It was a small price to pay for the love of a child. It makes you do anything."

Mike Kreitinger credited Zafke and a friend, Todd Tooz, for helping strap Zeke to the backpack and holding Zeke's hands while he walked a part of the way.

"His classmates helped out quite a bit," Mike said. "They were so kind to him, both from East and West. Zeke teaches people to be kind and patient."