In the beginning after Chris’s story came out, people sent money, which McCandless thought the couple would just give away, but that changed with the publication of Krakauer’s book. McCandless said, “Our share of the royalties has created a foundation that will go on forever.”
“We didn’t have any intention this would happen, but it just took off,” he said.
“The amazing thing that happened is how generous people are — are selfless — and been with us for many years,” said McCandless. “We didn’t go into it with the point of raising money.”
“Chris was one of those people who put his arms around causes, “ said McCandless, which is the reason for the nonprofit. “The foundation has become an important part of our lives. He (Chris) cared about people who are less fortunate.” He said his son, while in high school, gave homeless people meals and on one occasion brought someone home to stay in the family’s Airstream trailer. He also gave his remaining $24,000 college fund to OXFAM, a charity that fights hunger.
Krakauer recently wrote a New Yorker blog post about the probable cause of Chris’s death, which is significant to many people, who either saw Chris as a heroic figure on a quest for truth, fueled by literary figures such as Jack London and Thoreau, or felt he was an irresponsible romantic, unprepared for the wilds of Alaska, glorified through the book and movie.
In his book, Krakauer suspected Chris ate wild potato seeds, which grew prolifically near the bus, and caused Chris’s death, just as the young man had decided to return to civilization, but was forced back by a river crossing that had become impassable. Preliminary tests showed the seeds contained an alkaloid, which he thought might be toxic. His suspicion was also due to an explicit note left by Chris: “EXTREMELY WEAK. FAULT OF POT(ATO) SEED.” Further tests, however, revealed no evidence of alkaloids.
But in December, Ronald Hamilton, employed at Indiana University of Pennsylvania library, published an article on a website about evidence that wild potato seeds are toxic not because of an alkaloid, but an amino acid, found to cause paralysis, especially in young men in a weakened condition and doing hard, physical labor, such as hunting for small game. Tests for the amino acid revealed their presence.
Krakauer wrote: “His theory validates my conviction that Christopher wasn’t as clueless and incompetent as his detractors made him out to be.”
In his 1993 Outside article, Krakauer suspected that Chris had confused the wild potato, considered safe, with wild sweet pea, a reportedly toxic plant, but Krakauer wasn’t convinced the more he looked into it. In his blog post, he wrote that Chris wrote journal entries in a book on the region’s edible plants, which clearly warned of the distinction.
About the news, McCandless said: “It’s clear from his (Chris’s) writing – when he ate that (the seeds), it disabled him and he couldn’t walk out.” Continued…