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Manitoulin Island realtor hikes Ecuadorian volcano for charity

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A realtor from Manitoulin Island was recently in Ecuador to hike 100 kilometres in five days to raise money for charity.

Leanne Lewis was one of 120 real estate agents who participated in the Royal Lepage Ecuador Challenge for Shelter.

She raised $15,137 for Manitoulin Family Resources, particularly for its women's shelter and programs to end family violence.

The hike was at Pasochoa, an inactive volcano that reaches more than 4,000 metres above sea level. Hiking it is a challenge for the average person, but it’s especially intimidating for someone who's afraid of heights.

"When I got there, there was no choice," Lewis said.

"You walk or you don’t walk and with the amount of support from the community and amount of work I put in for it, anybody who knows me knows I'm doing this and somehow I'll get past my fears."

Lewis formerly worked in victim services and managed the YWCA's Genevra House. She said each day, a Royal Lepage member shared an experience where they had been personally or knew someone affected by domestic violence.

The hike was at Pasochoa, an inactive volcano that reaches more than 4,000 metres above sea level. Hiking it is a challenge for the average person, but it’s especially intimidating for someone who's afraid of heights. (Photo from video)

"It motivated us, as horrific as those stories were," she said.

"It gave us purpose and reason for doing what we did."

Lewis said she put in her application in October and heard that she was picked in January. She began training for it by changing her eating habits and hiring a personal trainer.

Troy Thompson, trainer and owner at T2 Systems in Sudbury, said he focused on high-intensity training to push her mentally and physically.

"She's able to go up elevations and not get tired, winded and feel weak," he said.

Thompson said he was proud of Lewis for facing her fears and accomplishing such a big challenge.

'A LOT OF PEOPLE TRY AND FAIL'

"It's just amazing she was able to do it, that she did it actually. A lot of people try and fail," he said.

"I've trained a lot of people for many different things and a lot of times people have good intentions and set their goals high, but it's that rare individual that actually follows through."

Lewis said physically, she felt fine during the trek.

"I wasn’t sore on the trek, physically I was fine," she said.

"The altitude was tough for breathing and in hindsight, if I was to do this again, I'd do yoga or mindful breathing."

Lewis said the experience was one she would never forget.

"I think the most important thing I learned was you just have to do one small thing to get to your goal," she said.

Lewis will be collecting donations until Dec. 31, before donating to Manitoulin Family Resources.

In a statement, executive director Colleen Hill said the organization is grateful for Lewis' efforts.

"We are incredibly grateful for her endless energy and tireless commitment to helping women by raising funds for Haven House Women's Shelter through her latest adventure,” the statement read. 

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