Debra Bobechko wants to get to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, look around at the panoramic view from the summit and take in the scene.
“I want to be at the top and look around at everything around me and just be like, ‘I did this,'” Bobechko, 50, told Global News. “I’ve been told my whole life, ‘You can’t do this, you’re not capable’ and everything else.”
Bobechko, who will turn 51 when she’s in Tanzania, has heart disease. She was officially diagnosed in her early 30s, although she began having heart problems in her late 20s.
WATCH: 10-year-old Mississauga boy could be youngest Canadian to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
“I had my heart shocked 13 times,” she said.
“I had heart surgery when I was 44 and I literally had to say goodbye to my kids because we didn’t know what the results were going to be.”
In August, Bobechko plans to climb 19,340 feet to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro — and with every step she takes, she’s hoping to raise at least one dollar for Youth Haven, a shelter in Barrie that supports homeless youth.
“I see youth as our future,” the Barrie woman said. “When I was searching, I found a lot of different charities that were well funded, well recognized and well supported. I wanted something that was grassroots, which I see Youth Haven doing.”
Youth Haven provides transitional and emergency care housing, a health-care clinic, counselling, life skills training, continuing care, case management and referral services to homeless youth.
“Our youth who are experiencing homelessness face mental and physical challenges every day that test their limits,” Lucy Gowers, Youth Haven executive director, said in a statement. “Just like Debra, they have a target they want to reach. A roof over their head. A job. Returning to school. It’s one step at a time.”
“My challenges are nothing compared to what these homeless kids go through on a daily basis,” Bobechko said. “I think that being a youth who is homeless, having someone say to them: ‘I believe in you’ is incredibly powerful.”
The Barrie woman has volunteered her entire life. She has been a Girl Guides leader for many years and has helped at-risk youth learn how to be entrepreneurs.
The 50-year-old has also been a motivational speaker for people with heart disease.
“I just think that there’s so much we can contribute to our own community,” she said.
WATCH: Former CFLer to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for Children’s Hospital
Bobechko has been training for the climb, which she said will begin on Aug. 23 and last seven to seven and a half days.
“We should summit on Day 6, and then it takes up to a day to a day and a half to get back down,” she said. “What happens is when we go to summit, we actually start climbing at midnight… We should summit at sunrise.”
Bobechko said her biggest fear for the climb is getting altitude sickness.
“That’s my fear because I can’t control it,” she said. “It’s a real metaphor, too, to life really. You can do everything right, but you get thrown a curve ball.”
Bobechko’s climb is completely self-funded, but she’s looking for corporate sponsorship for her $19,340 fundraising goal that will go toward Youth Haven.
“I really encourage people to, when they get into that uncomfortable place, to trust themselves and also reach out. Don’t let other people define it for you,” she said.