A Cornwall firefighter is leaving for Africa today to begin a journey that will help raise money for an Ottawa hospice facility - and perhaps bring him a little closer to the infant daughter he lost earlier this year.
Ian Butcher and his father-in-law Marcel Lalande are making the trek to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for Roger's House – a residential hospice affiliated with the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
The inspiration for the climb rests in the part of his heart Butcher keeps for little Jovie Butcher, his daughter. Jovie died in February, just shy of five months old.
"My sole motivation has always been Jovie," Butcher said in an interview just a few hours before leaving.
It was one year ago today Butcher and his wife brought little Jovie home from Roger's House.
She suffered from Trisomy 18, a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 18th chromosome.
She spent several weeks at the facility grappling with the syndrome that occurs in around one in 6,000 live births and around 80 per cent of those affected are female. The majority of fetuses with the syndrome die before birth. The syndrome has a very low rate of survival, resulting from heart abnormalities, kidney malformations, and other internal organ disorders.
Butcher has been training extensively for the climb, including work with a personal trainer and hiking in the Adirondacks. He's lost 12 pounds and 10 per cent of his body fat since beginning the training regimen.
Butcher said when things get tough on the mountain, his cheering section will be the tiny voice only he can hear.
"I signed up to do a Barrhaven Run for Roger's House," he said in an interview this summer, adding the distance he chose was 10 km – despite the fact the longest he had done in the past was just five. "I had a terrific run because at the seven kilometre mark she just popped into my head and that's all I thought about until the finish line.
"I imagine it will be the same on the mountain if I get into a tough spot."
Kilimanjaro sits some 19,340 feet above sea level. He and Lalande, who is also from Cornwall, and seven other parents and volunteers will accompany him as part of the Sky-High for Roger's House team.
"He's always up for anything," Butcher said of his wife Renee's father. "He's an outdoor adventure guy."
Adventure is what they are in for. When they begin the climb the temperature will be about 30 C – before dropping some 55 degrees to -25 C at the summit.
Butcher and his father-in-law will be accompanied by a collection of other climbers from Ottawa and area. For each member of the team, the hike has incredible meaning. Roger's House is a charity that supported some of them when their children passed away.
Butcher called the support he and his family received while Jovie was battling Trisomy 18 is incalculable.
"Without their services we would have been at such a loss," he said. "We just received a tremendous amount of support from them."
The group starts the climb Monday. It will take them seven days to get to the summit and two days to get down.
Butcher is raising money online and if you would like to donate check out http://bit.ly/ODc8C3.