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09 Feb, Thursday
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Montreal Families

I Spy Interview: Montreal Mom to Climb Kilimanjaro

Andrea, here with her husband Brandon, did face-painting on Canada Day to help raise money for her Kilimanjaro trip.

Andrea, here with her husband Brandon, did face-painting on Canada Day to help raise money for her Kilimanjaro trip.

There are a million reasons most of us wouldn’t commit to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, even if it’s for a worthy cause. The time … the effort … the physical challenge … leaving our kids to travel to the other side of the world …

Andrea Matte has all those reasons, but she’s doing it anyway. In January 2011, this mom of two from Greenfield Park is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to help raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

What made Andrea, mother to a 3- and 1-year-old, decide to make the leap?

She was touched by the story of a girl named Layla Grace Marsh, whose parents kept a blog about their daughter’s battle with neuroblastoma, a cancerous tumor in her abdomen and bone marrow. Layla died in March when she was only two.

The story hit close to home for Andrea, who has a daughter named Layla, and whose husband survived leukemia at age three. “I didn’t want the experience to be like reading a sad book, crying, closing it, and moving on,” writes Andrea on her Journey to Kilimanjaro blog. “I wanted to do something. Something to honor her memory.”

Not only will her climb be a physical and emotional feat – she has to raise $16,000, half of which covers the cost of the trip, the other half will go to the foundation. Over the next few months, she’s organizing a series of fundraisers. I asked Andrea to tell us more about the challenge and how we can help.

I Spy Montreal: How long will the Kilimanjaro journey take, and how are you balancing training with fundraising and being a working mom?

Andrea: The actual trip to Tanzania will be two weeks long and I’ll be “on the mountain” for 10 days. Since I will be climbing to the summit of Kilimanjaro as part of Summit for Wishes – a fundraising campaign for Make-A-Wish Quebec – my “journey” is much longer than that. When I signed up in April, I jokingly referred to it as my latest 9-month project (no babies this year!).

The fundraising aspect of this endeavor is huge. It takes up a lot of my time and if I’m completely honest, I have many overwhelmed moments. Finding balance has been tricky.  I’m blessed with an incredible support system – starting with my husband, Brandon. He is not only my biggest fan, actively supporting my efforts and seeking out unique fundraising opportunities, but as a teacher, he is around more and able to take some of the load off of me. I could never have taken this on if he weren’t as supportive as he is. And he’s not the only one I couldn’t do this without – I owe a lot to my family, friends and co-workers, who have been cheering me on and encouraging me every step of the way.

I Spy Montreal: When we hear about such tragedies, many of us would love to do something meaningful, but get caught up in daily responsibilities, routine and doubt that we can make a difference. What made you believe that you could do this, and has it been difficult to stay motivated?

Andrea: Good question. When I was in the process of deciding to take on this project there was a big part of me that kept asking myself “how in the world am I going to pull this off?”. People around me even suggested that I “start smaller”. But the more I thought about it, the more excited and resolved I became.

Like so many people, I want to make a positive difference in the world around me. While it is sometimes hard to stay motivated and I have moments where I question whether I’ll be able to reach my goals –  most of the time I just know that this is what I am supposed to be doing right now.

I’m starting to realize that undertaking this project is about more than the obvious; more than the child or children who will benefit from the money raised and more than reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro. It’s about the journey… the new relationships that are formed along the way, the people that can be inspired to undertake their own special cause, and the things I am learning as I fundraise and prepare my body for the climb…

I Spy Montreal: Aside from raising your target of $16,000, what do you hope will come out of this experience?

Andrea: Well, for starters I hope to actually reach the summit of Kilimanjaro.  Climbing Kilimanjaro is going to be one of the biggest physical challenges I’ve ever undertaken – but I know that when I reach that summit, it will be worth all the work it is going to take to get there.

Beyond that and the fundraising, I have some very personal goals and objectives.

I have an adventurous spirit – I can’t think of many things more adventurous than climbing one of the highest mountains in the world?!

I have a special place in my heart for young children who suffer from cancer or other illnesses that threaten their life. In doing this, I feel like I am honouring them.

I have a deep need to feel like what I’m doing matters or is important – not to be self-important – but to be doing something significant for more than just myself and my immediate entourage. I feel like this is a step (or several steps) in the right direction.

There’s no denying that part of why I’m doing this is “for me” and the sense of fulfillment that I will get out of reaching my goals. At 28 (29 when I make the trip) I still ask myself who I am. I hope to learn more about myself on this journey… and to be proud of myself when I’m done.

I Spy Montreal: How can we help?

Andrea: There are so many ways to help or get involved in my journey to Kilimanjaro! To list a few:

1. Donate your old “stuff” and/or check out my Garage Sale fundraiser (August 7 & 8)

2. Volunteer to help out for my “IGA BBQ” (August 21 & 22)

3. Buy a ticket and attend my ladies-only Brunch for wishes” (August 28)

4. Buy a hand-made key chain to support my efforts

5. Donate to Make-A-Wish or to help me get to Kilimanjaro

6. Pass it on! Tell your family and friends about the project

Keep an eye on my blog or Facebook page for other upcoming fundraising events and activities (**like a dinner/dance being planned for November!!**)

I Spy Montreal: When you’re not fundraising, working or training, what do you like to do with the kids on weekends? Can you suggest a family-friendly destination in your area?

Andrea: Our children are still quite young (3 and 1) so most of my favourite family activities are simple and home-based… Pancake breakfast on Saturday morning, daily dog walks to the park, arts & crafts with my 3-year-old, enjoying our swimming pool (especially this summer!) and picnics.

There are some great parks in our community (Greenfield Park) with wading pools for the young ones and lots of space for picnics, throwing a Frisbee or flying a kite. We’re often over at Park René –Veillet (1050 Parklane) and Park Jubilee (755 Barden) actually has a wading pool with a water slide!

I Spy Montreal: Great to meet you, Andrea!

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