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Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019
Joanna Fabris answers the calling of Kilimanjaro
by Randy Pascal

Throughout her years at St Benedict Catholic Secondary School, Joanna Fabris participated, quite eagerly, in just about every sport imaginable.

She was a mainstay in a group of roughly four to five young ladies who became teammates, on a variety of different squads, from September right through until June.

There was seldom a challenge that the second youngest of five children in the family would side-step. Perhaps that is why few are surprised in finding out where Fabris has found her latest calling.

A recent graduate of the Health Sciences program at the University of Ottawa, the 22 year old Sudbury native is preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in October, part of a ten-person fundraising expedition that was organized in support of Rogers House in Ottawa.

When a bevy of injuries sidetracked her aspirations to continue playing volleyball at a post-secondary level a few years back, opening up time on her daily calendar, Fabris quickly immersed herself with a long-time passion, working closely with children.

Blessed with some experience assisting handicapped youth, Fabris took on the daunting task of volunteering at Rogers House, a facility that assists terminally ill children and their families in dealing with the difficult hand that life has dealt them.

"Any time somebody talks to me about my volunteer work there, the reaction is to be kind of sad," said Fabris. "It's surprising, because everybody there (at Rogers House) is so upbeat and happy - it really leaves you with a feeling that you're doing something good."

Generally entrusted with playing with the children, doing "whatever the kids would really like to do", in her own words, and even manning the reception desk from time to time, Fabris jumped at the chance to give back even more.

"I was forwarded an email through our coordinator of volunteers about two parents that are organizing the climb," she said. "I read the email and was instantaneously interested."

The initiative was brought forward by two former Rogers House clients - Sophie Rosa and Angelo Garcia. Sophie had lost her youngest son (Simon) to a drowning accident, while Angelo saw his eldest son (Misha) eventually succumb to brain cancer.

The pair, avid outdoor enthusiasts, had met through the Rogers House bereavement group and very quickly found common ground. It was a backdrop that immediately called out to Fabris.

"That was one of the most motivating things about the story, the fact that these two people, who had lost a child, found a way to give something back, even though they had lost so much," she said.

"Just volunteering at Rogers House, I'm amazed at how incredible all the parents and the families have been. It's one of my favourite things about volunteering there."

Heart-felt emotions aside, there was a pragmatic reality to taking on the challenge of ascending Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at just under twenty thousand feet above sea level.

A reality, it seems, that somehow was lost on the bundle of dynamic energy that is Joanna Fabris. "To be entirely honest, my only real concern was finding a way to pay for my trip, given that all of the fundraising we do goes entirely to Rogers House," she explained.

But full-time work on a local level, all while still pursuing her hopes of attending medical school, provided the financial safety net to see the expedition through.

Athletic and very active by nature, Fabris has no serious climbing experience - though family and friends help provide additional motivation.

"Everybody is just so supportive and so excited for me," Fabris said. "The fundraising part has made it really fun for me." For my technical advice, she turned to long-time family friend Brian Ramakko.

"He has climbed Kilimanjaro before," Fabris noted. "Having him being able to tell me what to expect was extremely helpful - and then of course helping me out with all of the gear."

As this life experience draws nearer, the nervous energy increases for the young lady, finding out more about what lies ahead with every passing day.

"It's apparently pretty amazing being above the clouds, the views that you get," she said. "The more I was finding out about the mountain, the four different climbing zones, the more interested I became."

Second thoughts? Fabris has few. "I might not have necessarily known what I was getting myself into, at the beginning - but I love those kinds of situations."

Anyone interested in finding out in finding out more about the climb, or looking to donate, should visit Joanna'e personal website at "http://my.e2rm.com/personalPage.aspx?EventID=96691&LangPref=en-CA&RegistrationID=1497803"

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