“What’s your Everest?”
It’s a popular question asked by local realtor and philanthropist Trevor Stuart, inspiring others to reach for their goals.
Stuart has been preparing to reach his own goal soon — to climb the world’s tallest peak to raise awareness and funds for victims of domestic abuse.
Mount Everest, which towers at more than 29,000 feet, is but a tiny hill compared to the mountains he’s climbed within his heart.
Growing up in a household rife with domestic violence, Stuart has openly shared about the terror and abuse he experienced, and the responsibility he took on as a young child to try to protect his mother. He was kicked, choked and spat on, and wished there was someone to help.
Which is why helping those who have experienced domestic violence is a cause that’s so close to his heart.
Mt. Everest is the final expedition he’s facing for his “Climb to End Family Violence: Elevating lives, one peak at a time” campaign, in support of the YWCA Lethbridge & District.
Last February he climbed Mt. Aconcaqua in Argentina, the highest mountain outside of Nepal. Then he travelled to Bolivia in June, where he climbed four peaks, each over 18,000 feet.
Preparing for the climb has been quite the struggle for Stuart, physically and mentally.
Despite training for months, climbing the coulees with heavy-weighted packs, there are some things that cannot be prepared for, such as his fear of heights. Yet Stuart has conquered that fear time and time again in pursuit of his goal.
A send off party for Stuart has been planned for this evening by the YWCA GirlSpace group. Stuart recently mentored three GirlSpace groups who may not have a positive male role model in their lives.
He told them all about his childhood and why it’s so important to him to raise money for the YWCA.
“I told them how much stronger it made me because I got away from it. There’s a chain that can be broken. They can have a life with meaning and purpose,” he said. “Some of the girls opened up to me afterwards to share what they experienced. It was unreal. They felt safe to tell me that.”
Stuart recounted how he made it to the top of the other mountains — by reflecting on the challenges he faced growing up.
“I said to them, ‘Do you know why I never gave up when I felt like giving up on the mountain?’ One girl said, ‘I know, because you reflected back to your childhood.’ I said ‘Absolutely.’ If I can go through 20 years of bad upbringing, I should be able to put one more step in front of my next step on the mountain. The mountain is like nothing.”
He had a bag of coins from around the world, and handed each girl a coin. He asked them to hold onto it tightly to remind them they each have value.
“That had a huge impact on them. We can all come from far corners of the earth and we all hold our own value and our own story in our life and experiences.”
Stuart’s group will be the first to scale Mt. Everest since last April’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Kathmandu which killed more than 8,500 people. The quake triggered an avalanche which left at least 19 hikers dead and decimated Everest Base Camp.
But for all the dangers of climbing Mt. Everest, more people are killed by domestic violence each year in Alberta. In 2015, 43 women in Alberta were murdered, more than double the number of people who perished on Mt. Everest. The rate of domestic violence is twice as high in Alberta than the national average.
For the Lethbridge YWCA, Stuart’s efforts to raise funds come at an urgent time.
The 24-bed emergency Harbour House has had to turn away almost 1,900 women and children in the past 10 months as there was no room to house them. Although they cannot be housed, the YWCA still provides services and helps them to create a safety plan.
This greater need for space and programming requires funding to expand, which is part of why this mission is so important to Stuart.
“We’re at epidemic proportions. Something needs to be done. We need more services absolutely,” said Jennifer Lepko, CEO YWCA Lethbridge and District. “We’re over capacity in all of our programming, but we won’t turn anyone away.”
Stuart’s efforts, and those of the community, are helping to make an impact, she said.
“He’s risking his life for others. He is a true hero,” said Lepko. “We need more people like Trevor to step up and do something, whether it’s sharing information, rallying the troops, or donating, as Harbour House is run on donations. That’s how we’re going to make things happen.”
Having so much support from the community has been “awesome” Stuart said, especially learning about the impact the campaign has had on individuals.
“There are so many good people. You find them, you know they’re there. It’s so neat to see the difference it’s already made in the community for people.”
Stuart leaves on March 29 for his two-and-a-half month expedition. A send off party is planned tonight from 6 – 8 p.m. at the YWCA Lethbridge and District. All are welcome to attend to wish Stuart good luck on his journey.
– LETHBRIDGE HERALD