Rock to Climb

Curler leads mission to Kilimanjaro to battle child slave labour

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Cheryl Bernard
Olympic curler Cheryl Bernard (left) and Melanie Trepanier (right) of SierraSil hike trails in North Vancouver to get ready for their assault on Kilimanjaro. Photo: Jonathan Evans

Olympic silver medallist Cheryl Bernard never stops reinventing herself. The skip for Canada’s rink at the 2010 Games in Vancouver spent her athletic career heaving 40-pound slabs of granite down a sheet of curling ice. Last year she ran her first marathon and now she’s challenging the tallest mountain in Africa with a 40-pound pack on her back.

Bernard and a team of ambassadors for World Vision are climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise awareness of 85 million children worldwide affected by child slave labour. TV personalities Rick Campanelli and JD Scott and YouTube filmmaker Corey Vidal are among those on the trip. Supplement maker SierraSil is backing the venture.

“I realized two things coming out of the Olympics,” says Bernard, 48, of Calgary. “I was an older athlete at the Olympics, so chances of competing again would be really tough, but I was given a voice and I could choose to use it and do something useful with that medal.”

The team departs June 16 for a nine-day climb up and down Kilimanjaro’s 5,895 metres, packing all of their supplies to the top of Africa. “It will be a challenge for sure,” Bernard says. “We have to go up in the dark, summit at sunrise, get an hour at the top then head back down to a safer level.”

Bernard says she is trying to make sure she is in the best shape possible, working on her fitness anywhere she can; climbing stairs, hiking and making sure her health and hydration are well in hand many weeks in advance of the journey. Bernard also hopes there’s time on the trip to meet Nuru, an 8-year-old girl she sponsors in Tanzania.

“Our mission is to help people be healthier and live more active lives, so this was an opportunity for us to give back while pursuing an athletic challenge,” says SierraSil’s Melanie Trepanier, who is also going on the trek. “Plus, Cheryl is pretty fun to hang out with for a week.”

For World Vision, this cause needs more champions like Bernard and friends. They are looking for 85,000 Canadians to sign an online petition.

“World Vision is so thankful that we have ambassadors who can not only walk the walk, but can talk the talk,” says spokeswoman Alicia Pereira. “Cheryl, Rick and JD have so much dedication and heart for helping children around the world working in dirty, dangerous and degrading jobs. This climb will be a life-changing thing for not only the children they are helping, but each one of them.”

Bernard travelled to Africa three years ago and says, “You have to see it to realize how lucky we are. But the biggest thing is to be able to make a difference.”

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