Steps to End Homelessness – Thank You Suzanne West

We laughed. We savoured the sunshine and warm spring air and then we climbed.

167 stairs in total. Each set.

Beaumont and I completed 8. I was going for 10 but the heat was getting to be too much for him and by mid-afternoon, I called it quits.

Others kept climbing. Some did 50 sets. Others even more. From small babies in backpacks to seniors, we climbed for a cause and in memory of Suzanne West, an amazing woman whose vision and passion for ending child and family homelessness lead to the creation of Steps to End Homelessness nine years ago.

April 26th would have been Suzanne’s 53rd birthday if cancer hadn’t cut her life short on March 6th of this year. Last year, the 8th annual Steps to End Homelessness in support of Inn from the Cold attracted over 400 climbers. We’re pretty sure we surpassed that number yesterday.

One of the climbers shared his story of having run the stairs with Suzanne for months, training for Steps two years ago. On the day of the climb, he didn’t feel well but pushed on. Halfway up one set he stopped to catch his breath and thought he might have to quit. By the time he reached the top, he felt weak, dizzy and physically ill. He called it quits, walked to his car, got a few blocks away before realizing he couldn’t drive any further.

He carefully parallel parked his car, (I’m an engineer, he told me, I had to parallel park properly), opened his door, fell out of the car and broke his wrist. He crawled to the front bumper where two women saw him, dialed 911 and got help from the school nearby.

He’d had a massive heart attack.

“I died twice on the way to the hospital,” he said yesterday after completing his second set of stairs. “I bawled all the way up.” He took a sip of water, eyed the stairs and said, “It’s taken me two years to get back here, but I had to do it for Suzanne.”

High and imposing, the wooden staircase serpentines up the side of the McHugh Bluff connecting Memorial Drive to Crescent Heights above.

Years ago, when I ran half and full marathons, I’d run these stairs again and again. Now, I pace myself. Or at least I try to, but with Beaumont straining on his leash tied around my waist, it’s hard to go slowly. He’s determined to reach the top. I don’t run back down the stairs. It’s hard with a dog and the crowds on the stairs to go down, not to mention my knees are not fond of it either! We take the pathway along the top of the ridge and follow the trail down.

Like the hundreds of others who climbed for the Inn yesterday, we raised $1 for every set. Though I did claim senior status as I’m 65 this year. Which means, my sets = $2 and Beaumont’s = $1. Pregnant moms also raised $2 per set with dogs, adults and children raising $1 each.

It was a day of fun, laughter, sweat and for some, tears. Like the man who’d had a heart attack two years ago and the family and friends of Suzanne West who came to cheer everyone on and to welcome the climbers and thank them for their efforts, it was also a bittersweet day. Suzanne is gone. Her legacy will live on.

Yesterday, several hundred Calgarians came out to honour a woman, to celebrate her life and keep her dream of ending child and family homelessness alive.

It was a great day.

4 thoughts on “Steps to End Homelessness – Thank You Suzanne West

Leave a Reply to John McMahon Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.