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BOP community rallies behind equine therapy centre

The summit of Mount Maunganui is 232m high and takes an average of 40 minutes to climb. Photo: Mollie Edwards.

The Bay of Plenty community is again set to conquer More FM's Everest challenge which is running for its fifth year and will raise money for a local equine therapy centre.

The idea behind the annual event is to climb Mount Maunganui 38 times within 50 days, which is equal, in height, to climbing Mount Everest. The contest is open and will run until April 12.

This year’s charity is the Tauranga RDA Equestrian Therapy Centre, a voluntary organisation which offers equine therapy to people with disabilities and social challenges. It relies entirely on donations and sponsorship.

Tauranga RDA’s volunteer coordinator, Angela O’Donnell, says the money raised by the Everest challenge will be greatly beneficial to developing the centre’s arena and will also go towards a new sensory trail.

“At the moment, our arena surface is a sand and rubber mix but we are constantly having to top it up, so the money raised will go towards a sand and fibre mix which will last a very long time and will be more relaxing on our horses joints as well as our volunteers’ joints.”

She says the sensory trail will allow riders on to experience different sensory effects as they ride through it.

“We are so grateful to be the recipients and I think it going to create an awareness towards riding for the disabled. We hope the community understands who we are and what we do.”

Tauranga RDA’s staff, its volunteers and even some of its riders will take part in this year’s Everest challenge, taking each other on in a friendly rivalry.

“One of our staff members has already gone up 11 times in six days. There are big competitions happening.”

Angela says some of the staff at RDA are doing the climb two or three times each day and many climbers are noting the difficulty and sheer commitment it takes to complete the challenge.

“I have to admit, we’re all pretty tired already, so by the time we have done 38 each we are all really going to feel it.”

Tauranga Special School physiotherapist Karen Porter took part in the 2017 Everest challenge, which raised money for Waipuna Hospice.

Karen says the challenge can indeed be strenuous, depending on people’s fitness and time.

“Some people haven't ever walked up the Mount before so that was a new thing for them. Other people can’t get to the Mount because of the distance and traffic.”

Karen says she has a personal connection with this year's charity because many students from Tauranga Special School attend RDA.

“It helps our students, not only physically but also with their communication and behaviour.”

This year the More FM Everest Challenge has so far raised more than $23,000 and has 176 participants.

To register or donate, click here.

-Story by Mollie Edwards

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