Sharon Wood and Jim Elzinga were more than mountain guides on Sunday, August 11; they opened their arms and hearts to a group of amazing young women from Edmonton, who come from a variety of complicated situations. Jim’s Uncle Wallis Kendal co-founded iHuman and together they organized Street to Peaks. This weekend the participants came to Canmore for three-days of mountain activities, one being to climb Mount Fairview, the 2,744-metre peak that stands on the east-bank of Lake Louise
Kara Rain, Jasmine Nepoose, Alyssia Gladue, Roxanne Tompkins and Melissa Bigstone, never imagined climbing a one of Canada’s iconic peaks together. The time and efforts of iHuman is changing the lives of hundreds of youth, most of them with native backgrounds. I had the opportunity to climb Fariview with the team which included Elzinga’s wife, Siu Mai, who is a Detective Constable with the Toronto Police Service and dedicated climber, and Nico Magnun, one of the Rockies core-climbers. The ladies social worker, Brianna Olson, came for the trek.
Streets to Peaks is in its second-year. Last year they scrambled Ha Ling, above Canmore. Getting to know the girls on Fairview I was overwhelmed by the courage, stoke and talent they have. Watching Wood and Elzinga interact with everyone on a parental and mentor level was encouraging and inspiring. The girls shared their stories, often heart-wrenching, about childhood, inner-city gangs, abuse, racism and so much more.
“If it wasn’t for Wallis and iHuman, I would still be in jail,” said one of the participants. “Nope, I never thought I would make it to the top, it got so hard and hot, I am so happy we did,” said another. Elzinga and Wood once pushed a new route on Mount Everest together, in 1986, which required a certain kind of strength. Their work with Streets to Peaks requires a different kind of strength, one that touches others in a positive and long-lasting way.
Uncle Wallis is one of the most generous men I have met; his laughter is contagious and when matched with the generosity of Wood and Elzinga great things will happen. Streets to Peaks will grow, bringing youth to the heights. Congratulations to all the ladies who climbed Fairview today, and thanks to Wood, Elzinga and everyone else for making it happen. Today was a truly amazing experience.