by Rebekah Benoit
Local REALTOR Julio Florez is a familiar face in Fort McMurray. For the past decade, Florez has helped hundreds of families find a home in the city. In his off hours, Florez can be seen on the trails and pathways of Fort McMurray, an avid runner who enjoys the outdoors. This year, he’s running for more than just fitness. In a few short months, Florez will take on an impressive undertaking: he’s trekking to the lofty heights of Machu Picchu in Peru to raise funds for the Fort McMurray Family Crisis Society’s new shelter.
Florez says his own experiences early in life inspired him to become involved. “I experienced [domestic violence] – I lived in the middle of it, firsthand, and I don’t have an issue sharing that with people. That’s why I got involved with it,” Florez says, adding that his experiences made the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation a natural fit for him. “The whole intent is to protect women and children in violent situations, and I believe in this cause. I think it’s important not only to raise funds but to create awareness.”
A trek to Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan site in the mountain peaks of Peru, is no mean feat. The walled city dates back to 1450 and lies nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, making the trek an impressive athletic endeavour. Florez, who recently ran a half-marathon in his native Bogota, Columbia, says it’s not necessarily the distance that makes the journey difficult but the altitude. “Bogata isn’t as high [as Machu Picchu], but I can tell you that the altitude is a big challenge,” he says. “It affects your sleeping, gives you nightmares…it’s quite something. You adjust, but it will definitely be interesting.”
Florez and his fellow trekkers will sleep in tents at high altitude and go without running water, electricity or cell service during the trip.
Florez is currently raising donations and pledges for his journey. He is covering his own travel expenses, and stresses that 90 per cent of all funds raised will go to Fort McMurray’s local shelter. “That’s one of the neat things about it,” he says. “Only ten per cent goes to the foundation, and there are no administrative costs incurred, because Royal LePage picks up all of that.”
On June 10, the Fort McMurray Family Crisis Society will celebrate the opening of the long-awaited Compass Centre, an affordable housing apartment building which provides a safe place for women and children fleeing domestic violence. Florez, who has also committed to a five-year sponsorship program to support the new shelter, says he’s proud to be part of something that means so much to the community.
“There has been a lot of good community support for this,” he says. “As a REALTOR, my focus is always to sell the community, to tell people about the community. It’s not just to sell homes but provide proper living, and proper living includes having facilities like these, so people can at least have some support to be able to transition and get away from situations [of domestic violence].”
Florez is one of only three trekkers from Alberta and the only one from Fort McMurray. He is collecting donations through his official fundraising website and has already raised more than $5,000.
Donations over $20 are eligible for a tax receipt. To donate, visit the website at https://royallepage.myetap.org/fundraiser/machupicchu/individual.do?participationRef=808.0.853091647