TRURO – She is psyching herself up to climb the Kohler Klimbing Wall 250 times, but Michelle LeBlanc first hated the sport.
“I had no idea what it entailed,” said LeBlanc, 30, one of the instructors at the climbing wall at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre. “I had never seen it before, I had never tried it before. I initially hated it – it hurts your hands and it hurts your feet.”
But that hatred soon changed and rock climbing has consumed her life, so much so that she’s hosting a ‘Play Happy’ event beginning at 9 a.m. on March 23 in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Truro branch. She expects it will take about eight hours to climb 250 times, or the height of Mount Everest. It started out as a challenge, but she now realizes how “neat” it would be to use it as a fundraiser.
“I understand the psychological and mental benefits through climbing and I know that recreation programs are often at the bottom of the chain that organizations are able to use for funding,” she said about why she wanted to support the local branch. “Climbing builds self-reliance and it’s non-traditional. A lot of people hosting fundraisers use hockey, basketball or baseball. I love team sports too; I know the therapeutic nature one can get from activities.”
LeBlanc, who lives in Halifax, first started climbing when in her fourth year of kinesiology. She required some activities and credits and sought out rock climbing.
“At the time, I had played hockey with the (University of New Brunswick) Varsity Reds, so I was used to being part of a team. Climbing is self-reliant. It’s a very individual experience – you’re only climbing for yourself. Climbing was super foreign to me. It took about a year for me to really get into it but it slowly took over my life.”
While her goal is to raise $5,000 for the Truro branch, LeBlanc also hopes to raise awareness about mental health and the sport of climbing.
“I want people to feel welcome to come out to the event, to see what rock climbing is all about and to try it out,” she said, adding while she is climbing her 250 pitches, staff will be on hand to help those who also want to try it.
“It’s going to be a busy day, but rock climbing can be something that’s significantly rewarding. It has been for me – it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done.”
LeBlanc is collecting corporate sponsorships, as well as donations from individuals.
The event on the 23rd will feature a silent auction and donations can also be made to the cause. Anyone wishing to climb during the event will have their proceeds also go to the cause.
“I encourage people to be willing to try it. Climbing helps build patience and focus and it evens the playing field to all sorts of different people.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Play Happy, an eight-hour event that will see Michelle LeBlanc climb the Kohler Klimbing Wall 250 times
WHEN: March 23, beginning at 9 a.m.
WHERE: Rath Eastlink Community Centre
WHY: To raise money for the Truro branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, as well awareness of the sport
NOTE: Anyone wishing to climb at the same time will have the opportunity to do so, with all money going to the cause; a silent auction will be on site, and donations can be made