A pediatric occupational therapist in Prince George, B.C., has challenged herself to run 1,000 kilometres over the 13 weeks of winter to raise money for children with disabilities.
Carley Billups says she's seen firsthand the challenges families face to pay for therapy services and medical equipment for children with disabilities.
She's taking her fundraiser, which began on Dec. 21, the winter solstice, to the snowy outdoors of Prince George.
"It's a bit of a push for me. A little more than I normally do in the winter, so I wanted it to be a challenge," Billups said.
Billups hopes her fundraiser for the Variety children's charity will help families cover outstanding fees and expenses that aren't covered by government or extended health funding.
"Government funding will pay a certain amount, but they don't cover things like large front castors [for wheelchairs] … that helps the kids go through snow, for example," said Billups, adding that Variety is one of a few funding sources that helps families access additional resources.
Carley Billups challenged herself to run 1,000 kilometres this winter. Despite frigid conditions, she tries to run as much as she can outdoors. (Carley Billups)
Billups says she typically runs 50 to 65 kilometres a week in the winter. She's taken it up a notch for the fundraiser, running 80 to 90 kilometres a week – more than two marathons – to eventually reach 1,000 kilometres by March 19, the last day of winter.
One month into her challenge, Billups says she has run more than 350 kilometres and raised more than $4,200.
"I will try to do [the runs] outside as much as possible, but I might need to do some of it inside … if it's really terribly uncomfortable, then sometimes I just can't [run]," she said.
On especially cold days, Billups says she uses a heated hat, glove warmers and runs with her head down to block the wind.
"I'm still choosing to go outside. It's still my choice, even though it's hard. These kids and their families don't get a choice to be dealing with what they're dealing with," she said.
"[While running] I'm thinking about how hard things are for these kids and how I'm hoping that this will make a difference."
B.C. Emergency Health Services warns people to be aware of signs for hypothermia, such as shivers and drowsiness, and frostbite, like skin appearing grey and waxy, when out in extreme weather conditions.
In a statement, Variety B.C.'s chief executive officer Andrea Tang said supporters like Billups are crucial to the charity's operations, especially in the northern part of the province.
"Last year, Variety helped families in over 50 northern B.C. communities and the demand is greater than ever," Tang said.
"We're so inspired by [Billups'] passion and thankful that she's choosing to run for children in her community with disabilities and complex heath-care needs."