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How to do your own Charity Challenge

Bucket lists don’t have to be selfish.

Skiing the North Pole, trekking across the Sahara Desert or climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro can be just as effective as eye-catching fundraising tools as they are satisfying personal feats.

That’s the concept behind Charity Challenge, a popular U.K.-based adventure company that specializes in linking once-in-a-lifetime treks to charitable efforts.

Travellers pick from an extensive list of guided adventure packages, but must meet a minimum fundraising goal for their charity of choice before embarking on their journey.

After 13 years in the United Kingdom and more than US$50 million raised for numerous groups, founder Simon Albert and his brother, Ontario native Marc Berlin, have brought the unique venture to Canada.

While the first Canadian treks don’t begin until 2013, Charity Challenge has already booked treks with UNICEF and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

It has also partnered with Flight Centre and Mountain Equipment Co-Op to ensure each trekker is properly trained, equipped and booked for their trip.

A decade of running Charity Challenge in the U.K. has given Albert a pretty good idea of what to expect here.

“Because [challenge participants are] doing this for charity, there tends to be a more personal motivation. There’s more to it than, ‘I want to climb a mountain’,” explained Albert during a recent stop in Vancouver. “It’s husbands without wives or wives without husbands. They may have just lost someone to cancer or survived breast cancer, hit 50 years old, something has changed their life.”

In addition to getting trekkers ready for their adventure, Charity Challenge provides plenty of assistance and materials to ensure participants meet their fundraising goal.

Trips are even discounted after a certain level of donations has been reached.

“It’s all part of what we do,” said Berlin. “That support wouldn’t otherwise be there. We help prepare people for the trip and take as much of the work off the charity’s plate as possible.”

The tales of perseverance and dedication Albert has heard often blows him away and inspires others.

“We had a woman recently that went to Sumatra in the jungle. She was in her late 60s and had a stroke and ended up in a wheelchair. She was told she’d never walk and never talk, over years she got herself in a position to do it,” he said. “And she did a really tough trek in the jungle, which is just amazing. For her, the fundraising was all about people who knew her and what she’d been through. On a personal level, she proved doctors and nature wrong.”

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