In August, 66 Royal LePage professionals from across the country embarked on a six-day trek through the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia. Every two years, Royal LePage agents and brokers hike long days through difficult terrain, sleep in tents, go without cell service and give up many of the comforts of home to raise funds for the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, Canada’s largest public foundation dedicated exclusively to ending family violence.
This year’s event raised more than $750,000, says Carly Neill, fundraising and communications manager for the foundation.
“Our top fundraiser, Chris Pennycook with Royal LePage Dynamic Real Estate in Winnipeg, personally raised over $120,000,” which is a foundation fundraising record, says Neill. “All funds raised were directed to the women’s shelter in each participant’s community as well as national programs that help today’s youth learn how to build healthy relationships and avoid violence in their lives.”
She says women’s shelters across the country have incurred significant costs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and many fundraising events have been cancelled since March 2020. “Shelters have also seen an alarming rise in the need for their services, as women have been trapped 24/7 with abusive partners. Unfortunately, this trend is expected to continue as restrictions are lifted,” says Neill.
Previous treks went to Machu Picchu (2015), Iceland (2017) and the Sahara Desert (2019). “While we were delighted to trek for the first time on Canadian soil, right up until the day we departed, the pandemic created a level of uncertainty,” says Neill. “Very strict safety measures, including a rapid testing protocol and small-group bubbles were put in place and participants rallied around our ultimate shared priority – to raise much-needed awareness and funds for shelter organizations that desperately needed support. It speaks to the commitment and the character of our agents that they were willing to fundraise a minimum of $5,000 and pay for all of their trek expenses out-of-pocket, not knowing if the hiking adventure would be possible come August.”
She says the Purcell Mountains trek “was undoubtedly the most physically demanding and technical challenge we’ve undertaken. For six days and five nights, trekkers carried 30-lb. packs with their personal belongings and gear across some of Canada’s most rustic and gruelling terrain, much of which has been largely untouched for decades. There were rarely paths to follow, dense forest to bushwhack, steep climbs and harrowing descents. Oftentimes, we faced harsh weather conditions, including windy alpine passes, scorching daytime heat, freezing temperatures at night and smoke from distant forest fires that made breathing more laboured,” says Neill. “Our hard work was rewarded though, with some of the most majestic scenery and vistas trekkers have ever witnessed.
“In stepping well outside their comfort zones and undergoing a truly challenging experience together, our trekkers were also blessed to develop deep and meaningful bonds with one another. Royal LePage president and CEO and fellow trekker Phil Soper and I agreed that wonderful camaraderie between trekkers was on full display throughout our trip. We saw this in grand gestures like carrying someone else’s pack to provide them a few moments of respite, sharing gear and hiking tips, or simply offering quiet words of encouragement during a difficult moment. Watching these lifelong friendships form is one of the most special parts of our Challenge for Shelter experiences.”