Business mogul. Community leader. Philanthropist. The accolades used to describe Suzanne West are impressive and one thing is certain, her impact is felt by many.
The self-proclaimed fearless leader undeniably has the Midas touch. She is the president and CEO of Imaginea Energy Corp., a Calgary company that focuses on “sustainability and community responsibility in everything we do.”
West’s business prowess is not to be outdone by her passion for healthy living. A former fitness instructor, West hosts free bootcamp workouts four times a week simply because “fitness is expensive so I take away that excuse. Being healthy is just part of what you should do.”
In 2010, West created Steps to End Homelessness. The idea is simple: every year for her birthday West climbs the Crescent Heights stairs across from Prince’s Island Park in Calgary and encourages others to come and suffer with her. For every flight completed, West donates one dollar to the Inn From the Cold Society. The inaugural fundraiser had approximately 50 people participate, while last year 1,052 people attended, raising $30,000. True to form, West was the most dedicated, completing 115 sets of stairs in eight hours.
When asked how Steps to End Homelessness came to fruition, West laughs, “I was inspired because a friend did 50 sets of stairs for his 50th birthday. (Business magnate) Brett Wilson also held a charity event for his 50th. I thought, ‘That’s a cool thing to do. Why wait until I’m 50?’” As for selecting the beneficiary, West says, “The thing that breaks my heart is to know that there are children who do not have homes. That is just wrong. The Inn From the Cold accepts homeless children. They are amazing, dedicated human beings.”
It is inspiring to see people donate pain in service of people they don’t know.
As for the continued growth of her event, West is thrilled, declaring, “It is my favourite day of the year. It is inspiring to see people donate pain in service of people they don’t know. One year we had a four-year-old do 10 sets with their grandmother!”
This April, more than 1,000 people were out again climbing 10,000 sets of stairs and raising more than $35,000 in the process. West herself completed 120 sets of stairs, leading the way forward all day with a giant smile.