By Yose Cormier
Kitchissippi area realtor Jennifer Stewart recently returned from a fundraising hike through the Sahara Desert, raising $8,500 for women’s shelters and missing a toenail.
Lanark County Emergency Shelter and the Interval House of Ottawa’s pet sanctuary project received 80 per cent of the funds while the other 20 per cent went to the Royal Lepage Shelter Foundation for its educational programs around domestic violence efforts.
“I’m really happy with the total I raised. I surpassed my goal of $5,000,” said Stewart, who raised the money as part of the Royal Lepage Shelter Foundation’s annual fundraising adventure in Morocco.
This was Stewart’s second time taking part in the fundraiser, having done the Iceland trek in 2017.
“This was very different. It was not as physically demanding as Iceland was for me. The biggest challenge was the flatness and the monotony,” she says. “The landscape seemed never-ending – you could see the next stop in the distance, but it would be like three hours away. It was a mental challenge,” she says.
Jennifer said the scenery was beautiful, and the group, which was made up of approximately 120 Royal Lepage realtors from across Canada, was lucky to see a herd of camels cross their path.
“It seemed perfectly-timed. There were hundreds of camels so that was pretty cool and surreal,” she says.
While Jennifer was apprehensive about the heat before leaving, she said it wasn’t as hot as she thought it was going to be. Despite walking in the sun, she says they were covered head to toe, wearing sunglasses and lathered with sunscreen and drinking water constantly.
The biggest challenge, it turned out, were blisters.
“Three days in, we had a 16 km stretch in the morning and about 5 km in, I knew there was something wrong with my foot. I took off my boot a few kilometres later, and I had a huge blister that ran around my little toe and under my toenail.”
The group was travelling with a doctor, who had to lance the toe (stick a needle through the toenail to burst the blister and relieve the pressure).
“It’s incredible, we think baby toe is the smallest thing, but the pain was debilitating,” says Jennifer, who was able to resume hiking the following day but only after borrowing a pair of boots that were two sizes bigger from another of the hikers.
Jennifer hopes to be able to continue with some fundraising efforts like this, but she and her realty partner, Diane Allingham, left Royal Lepage to join Engel & Volkers.
“That was a big decision, but it’s a great opportunity to have our own shop in Wellington West, in a location where our clients can just walk in. Diane and I have always donated parts of our commissions, so we will be looking for another charity,” she says. “I won’t be doing shelter treks, but for sure I will be doing something else. I’m not sure what the next adventure will be, but there will be one.”