Photo: Pedro Szekely
67% of Canadians say they personally know a woman who has experienced abuse and one in three teenagers have reported dating violence. Every night in Canada more than 3,000 women and their 2,500 children stay in a shelter to escape domestic violence. If you're like me, you find those statistics alarming and ultimately, unacceptable.
The Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, dedicated exclusively to funding women's shelters and violence prevention programs, has raised over $18 million, since 1998. Agents donate a portion of their commission, offices hold fundraising events, and brokers, agents and staff volunteer and provide in-kind goods to benefit the women and children residing in their local shelters.
Back in 2008, I was looking for a unique way to raise money for a worthy cause, the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation (more about that below). I found that challenge in an ultimate test of fitness - climbing the Grouse Grind as many times as possible in a single day. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do at the time.
The record at the time was 12 ascents in one day, which I matched in 2008 and then broke in 2009, climbing the trail 13 times in one day. In 2010, I did it again, climbing 14 times and once again setting the record. These two events raised a combined total of close to $20,000...and most importantly, provided an unprecedented amount of media attention on the RLP Shelter Foundation and the issue of domestic violence.
It's hard to convey in words exactly what that experience was like. It was quite literally, the most difficult physical challenge that I've ever taken on. There was a point at which I was curled up in a tight, painful ball about 100 ft into the trail as my body seized with cramps. There was the constant mental challenge of doing endless interviews at almost every moment I was on the mountain...at the top, on the gondola, at the base, and even as I was climbing up. And then, there was also the fact that my urine had turned to blood by the end of the day.
It was an accomplishment that took an immense toll on my body, and immediately after the last event my family asked me never to do it again. It was a promise that I reluctantly made at the time, but I knew that they were only wanting to keep me safe.
In the last few years, I've continued to support the RLP Shelter Foundation in a number of ways. Primarily, I give a portion of every commission that I earn. In past years, I was also an instrumental organizer of an annual garage sale that benefitted the charity, and two years ago I challenged and organized nearly 70 other realtors to hike the Grouse Grind just once. Combined we raised just under $30,000.
I've kept my promise not to attempt the Grouse Grind record again, but I've been seeking a new challenge, and this year I've found it. Together with 70 other realtors from across the country, I will be spending eight days this August trekking to the lost city of Machu Picchu, in Peru. Every day, I'll be trekking at high altitude, camping in tents, and forgoing showers, electricity and, scariest of all, no internet/cell service... I promise to do it just once on this trip.
In order to participate, each realtor must raise $5000, as well as pay all of their own expenses. Specifically, I'm raising money for UGM's new women's shelter (the only one in downtown Vancouver), here on the DTES, Canada's poorest neighborhood. I recently toured their facilities on East Cordova St, and I was really moved by the stories of the people that they help. This new program exists to help women get their lives back on track, whether they're coming from detox or directly off the streets. In addition to providing shelter, counselling, and help with mental wellness, the UGM also provides help with life skills, such as cooking, budgeting, exercise, and help reaching a Grade 12 Equivalency education.
I'm asking you to help me reach my $5000 goal. Little by little, we can raise the funds together that will to help support the Shelter Foundation and the women of the DTES. You can donate online today, at http://goo.gl/YcGDJd (and donations are 100% tax deductible).
If you have any questions, or would like to discuss this more, please don't hesitate to contact me. Thanks in advance for your support!