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My Big Wild Challenge

I came across the Big Wild Challenge when I started working at CPAWS-BC and had to familiarize myself with all of our programs and campaigns. The Big Wild Challenge is something that anyone can take part in just by giving themselves a little extra challenge the next time they are out enjoying nature and by fundraising for conservation.

The best part – the challenge doesn’t have to be anything too radical, or outside your comfort zone. Just challenging yourself to do something that you have never done before is enough. So, although I did not feel very brave next to the man who paddle boarded across the Georgia Straight, I signed up and challenged myself to try white water rafting. It actually worked out perfectly as my sister was planning to visit and we were looking for something to do. My sister has rafted but had never been to Squamish so we arranged to go rafting with a tour company there, Canadian Outback Adventures.

I soon discovered that no matter what your challenge is the real difficulty lies in the fundraising. The good thing about the fundraising is that every dollar raised is matched by Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) and all the money goes to support CPAWS in their wilderness conservation efforts – two good selling points. I filled out my profile on the Big Wild Challenge site and decided to promote my challenge by creating a Facebook event and inviting everyone I know.

I had just visited several provincial and national parks in BC, Ontario and in the Maritimes and this made my plea for pledges all the more personal and impassioned. After the first day I had three donations, but there was little action after that. I realized that people who saw it had likely forgotten and that I needed to keep it on their minds. My strategy was to post regular updates on the event page such as personal reasons for supporting conservation,  interesting facts about CPAWS, and conservation issues. It worked out well as I surpassed my fundraising goal with $600, or $1200 with the contribution from MEC.

Finally the day of the challenge arrived. There wasn't much preparation required, but we did have to get up early and drive to Squamish. I packed us some snacks for the bus to the launch site along with sweaters, towels, extra clothes and sunblock. When we arrived, there were about 40 other people checking in to go rafting too. After a brief orientation by the Outback Adventures staff we put on our wetsuits and were on our way.

To be honest, one of the most difficult parts of the trip was sitting in my uncomfortable and hot wetsuit as we drove for an hour to get to the launch site on the Elaho River. By the time we arrived I just wanted to jump in – a bad idea considering the strength of the rapids. Our guide was Clarky, a funny guy and experienced rafter. The instructions about what to do if someone fell out gave me pause, but in no time we were paddling and holding on at Clarky’s instruction. Going over the white water rapids was really exhilarating and it was so nice to be sprayed with cold water.

In slow parts, we got to have some fun by splashing the other boats and in one section I got to hang off the side of the raft (by choice) as we went over a very small rapid. It was fun and games in the calm areas but the rapids we took seriously. Clarky had time to point out sights along the river such as Mount Kaylee and a salmon baring stream, which we were told would literally be pink with salmon in a couple of weeks.

I told my crew about the Big Wild Challenge and Clarky asked me to tell the whole group on the bus back. When we returned there was complimentary salsa and nachos. Clarky came over and introduced me to the manager, who said that after hearing about my fundraising efforts he’d be happy to give me complimentary pictures and I was really grateful!

The challenge was seriously so much fun. I might have gone white water rafting as some point anyway, but this motivated me to do it now and going there knowing I was contributing $1200 to wilderness conservation made it that much better. Right now I am one of the top three fundraisers in the challenge, and while I enjoy this status I certainly encourage everyone to do their own challenge – and see if they can beat me.

So, what’s your challenge?