It was six years ago when South Surrey resident Erin Little first considered trekking to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
The idea was planted in her head by a friend who suggested a group go together to take on the dormant volcanic mountain that rises to 19,341 feet above sea level – making it the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
Unfortunately, she was unable to make the trip due to a scheduling conflict.
But from then on, Little was determined to one day make the trip and complete the climb. Her one condition: tying in her accomplishment with a charity she could support.
“It always nagged at me there wasn’t a charity angle. If I was going to do it, it had to be for something important,” Little said. “I kept searching, but I couldn’t find anything in Canada.”
That all changed last year, when Little, continuing on her Internet search, came upon a website bearing a Canadian flag.
“I found Charity Challenge Canada and they had just expanded to Canada that year. I saw all the challenges they had and that you could sponsor a charity while doing it,” she said.
“The only problem was they didn’t have the SPCA listed as a charity, which is who I wanted to support.”
After sending them an email inquiring about her options, Little received a response saying Charity Challenge had already spoken with the SPCA and everything was all set for her challenge.
“I was like, whoa-whoa-whoa, I’m just inquiring. But then I realized, why not? Now’s the time to do it.”
The self-proclaimed animal lover said the final push for her to take on the challenge was the unique opportunity to support the BC SPCA – a goal she had set for herself for some time.
“I prefer animals to humans. It breaks my heart to hear about them suffering, so I wanted to do something about it,” she explained.
“I’ve always had so much respect for the people who work there and they are so community focused, but I just didn’t have the heart to go in there and volunteer myself.
“When I saw this opportunity, I said enough. It’s not about how you feel. It’s about the animals. Get over yourself and just do something.”
The avid hiker began her quest in May to raise $10,000 for the SPCA – nearly double the amount set out by Charity Challenge. Little hosted a garage sale, received donations at work as an event co-ordinator at Morgan Creek Golf Course and even sold homemade raspberry jam.
“I was canning and selling jam that had a label that said ‘Jammin’ my way to Kilimanjaro,”’ she laughed.
In early November, Little received $2,500 for hosting a pub night at Ocean Park Village Pub, helping her finally reach her goal.
“The amount of support I received was amazing,” she said.
“I was initially against a pub night, as I’m not a pub person myself, but the members of my book club said I had to do it.
“We raised that amount in two hours.”
With her goal set, Little is now focusing on her upcoming trip. While this will be her first time traveling to Africa, it isn’t the first time she’s gone great distances for the thrill of a hike.
A few years back, Little and friends travelled to Peru to walk along the ancient Inca trail in Machu Picchu.
“It was euphoric. Hiking for me is euphoric. I can’t think of a better way to get in touch with yourself spiritually,” she said.
One stark contrast between Machu Picchu and her upcoming trip is that Little will be doing it by herself.
“It’s scary to travel to Africa all alone, but I have no excuse. It’s selfish not to give back,” she said. “This is very important to me.”
Little is slated to fly out of Vancouver on Jan. 12, briefly stopping to meet a friend in the U.K., then set to land in Africa on Jan. 16. Shortly after, she will begin her ascent on the mountain, which will take six to seven days to reach.
And while she has reached her financial goal, Little still encourages others to donate, either to her challenge, or directly to the BC SPCA.
“Animals always need help. Let’s do everything we can.”
To donate to Little’s challenge, visit http://support.spca.bc.ca/site/TR/Events/ChampionsforAnimals?pxfid=8810&fr_id=1040&pg=fund