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Local climbers reach for the top

THREE community members have recently gone to great heights in support of a variety of causes close to their hearts.

THREE community members have recently gone to great heights in support of a variety of causes close to their hearts.

Ridgeview elementary vice-principal Craig Cantlie is one of the intrepid adventurers and recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, to raise funds for the B.C. Children's Hospital Foundation. Cantlie was a participant in Summits of Hope, which supports research, helps improve the quality of life of sick children, and educates and cares for children in need at the hospital.

Cantlie has long been interested in participating in a Summits of Hope climb, having first heard of the program through a couple of his friends who helped found it in 1999. Furthering his interest was his one-year-old-son Owen, who has received care at B.C. Children's Hospital on a few different occasions. While each issue was minor - "new parent emergencies," says Cantlie - he was impressed by staff's expertise and the importance of the institution to the wider community. His mother was also diagnosed with cancer last year. "It was kind of the two together," he says.

Cantlie, who lives in Vancouver, was away from Oct. 8 to 23.

"It was amazing," he says. "We were really fortunate, we lucked out with beautiful weather and so we were able to see the mountain through most of our trek and I pinched myself all the time: 'I'm in Africa and it's October.' It was beautiful."

Adding to the experience was that he was joined by three of his long-term friends.

"That made it a really enriching experience for all of us, just to be able to do it together," he says.

Cantlie is incredibly grateful for the support he received through the Ridgeview school community.

"We really involved the kids in terms of trying to inspire them and getting the kids to do some of the making a difference," he says.

He made school-wide presentations and students participated in fundraising, either at school or on their own time; for example some decided to hold a weekend lemonade stand, weed neighbours gardens, or sell magnets, Popsicles or God's Eyes. Others made donations of their personal savings.

"It was really cool because all these kids, without me really talking about it, were like, 'We want to raise money for you Mr. Cantlie and this is what we've done and here's our donation,'" he says.

During the climb, Cantlie made phone calls via satellite phone which were broadcast throughout Ridgeview. Some parents would stop in to hear his reports, in addition to organizing their own fundraisers.

West Vancouver School District staff are also showing their support, including offering the proceeds from a volleyball tournament as well as plan to make donations to the foundation at their upcoming holiday party.

While in Tanzania, the Summits of Hope team delivered toys, school supplies and clothes to an area orphanage through a

partnership with ECONEF, an organization located in Jua kali, outside of Arusha in northern Tanzania. Run by Caroline Nicholas, the non-profit works to improve the standard of living for orphans in the area, many of whom lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.

While Cantlie's funds are still rolling in, he expects to have collected more than $10,000 for the foundation by the end of the year.

North Vancouver resident Jason Lawson was also part of the Kilimanjaro 2012 team, marking his second time joining a Summits of Hope expedition - he previously journeyed to Mount Everest's basecamp in 2010. Lawson was inspired to get involved in light of his son Beckett's 2007 diagnosis with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age three. After 40 months of chemotherapy, Beckett is now considered to be in remission.

Shehla Ebrahim recently trekked to the base-camp of K2 in Pakistan in an effort to support two initiatives: Opportunity International, a non-profit organization that assists people in Third World countries with micro-financing; and a private fund that assists in building schools for girls in Pakistan.

The West Vancouver physician and entrepreneur, owner of Ambleside Dermedics clinic and Afterglow Medical Aesthetics Clinic, embarked on the journey at the beginning of September. She made the ascent with three other hikers. It took her team, guided by 30 porters, three weeks to cover the glacier on foot, travelling 170 kilometres to reach the basecamp.

This trip marks her third humanitarian climb, having travelled to Mount Everest's basecamp as well as Mount Kilimanjaro in previous years.

Ebrahim raised $2,500 to be split between the two charities and in addition, donated $1,000 to her porters, noticing how little climbing gear they owned, outfitting them with warm gear and tents.

Summits of Hope is accepting applications for those interested in joining the 2013 Kilimanjaro and Ecuador teams. Info: