‘I just can’t believe we did this’: local woman moves mountains for Hope’s Home

Bernadette Lavoie/Facebook Bernadette Lavoie at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro on Jan. 22.

The owner of North Country Massage and Medi Spa who raised more than $20,000 for Hope’s Home has completed her long-awaited goal of climbing the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.

Albertville’s Bernadette Lavoie reached the 19,341 foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, a trip which took her through five different climate zones for a total distance of 74.06 kilometers.

“I did it! The hardest thing I’ve ever done mentally and physically,” wrote Bernadette Lavoie in a Facebook post on Jan. 22, six days after she left on her trip. “A young Tanzanian man told me, ‘When your body wants you to quit, it’s only trying to cheat you. Your faith and your heart are more powerful and that will carry you to the top.’”

In less than three months, Lavoie managed to surpass her goal of raising $19,371 – a dollar for every foot of the mountain – for Hope’s Home. All of proceeds were given to help children with complex needs.

Lavoie arrived in Tanzania in East Africa on Jan. 15, two days before climb day. She visited with people from the local Maasai tribe and explored some of the area before a briefing where she had a chance to meet the rest of her climbing group, which included an Englishman, an Australian, and a fellow Canadian.

“Thank you for all of your support and putting your trust in me and also all of your donations to Hope’s Home,” said Lavoie in a video posted to her Facebook page. “I just can’t believe we did this.”

On Day one of Lavoie’s journey, her group traveled through the rainforest zone filled with muddy and soggy trails. Day two was a steep climb with an ascent back towards the rainforest to prevent elevation sickness, ending with the scenery of Shira Cathedral. Managing rocky terrain towards Lava Tower was in store for day three and day four ended with looking at the Great Barranco Wall. On her sixth day, Lavoie reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, where she was given a mountain climbing certificate to commemorate the achievement.

“It was probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my entire life but I made it,” Lavoie said in a Facebook video from the mountain top. “It goes to show that with a little hope, charity and faith, you can move mountains.”

In a Facebook post to mark the end of her journey, Lavoie thanked everyone for their well wishes and said she was looking forward to a shower and talking with her family. Before heading home, Lavoie took a little tour of Grade 5 at the Stella Maris Lodge and School/Orphanage to bring the kids some Canadian goodies.