REI employee braves sub-zero temps for a good cause

January 31, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Linsey Warren, an Issaquah resident and avid outdoorswoman, with the Olympic Mountains behind her in a view from Issaquah Highlands, plans a trek through Quebec in February to raise money for the oncology department at St. Jerome’s Hospital near Montreal. By Greg Farrar

There’s a reason Linsey Warren works at the Issaquah REI store.

“I grew up in the outdoors and I’ve always liked the idea of a challenge,” she said.

Now, Warren’s taking her love of the outdoors and adventure and using it for a good cause.

This month, Warren and two others will race Ski-Doos in the province of Quebec. The expedition will raise money for the oncology department at St. Jerome’s Hospital, located just outside Montreal.

The trek begins at the Inuit village of Puvirnituq and proceeds north toward the villages of Akulivik and Ivujivik, on the northern tip of the province in the arctic region of Nunavik. The group expects to cover several hundred miles during the journey.

Craig Ross, a first aid instructor at the Nunavik Arctic Survival Training Center, created the project.

Ross has a personal connection to the cause. His wife received successful treatment at the hospital when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“He wanted to take everything that he knows about the north and everything that the hospital was doing to fight for his wife, and combine it into one dream,” Warren said.

Ross likes the unique nature of this fundraising opportunity.

“The reason I came up with this project was first, to raise funds for our regional hospital,” he said, “and second, to do it in a special way that hasn’t ever been done.”

The trek across the frozen tundra won’t be an easy one. Warren expects to encounter temperatures ranging from 40 degrees below zero to 70 degrees below zero. The group plans to spend time in igloos or tents when they’re not near a village.

Warren’s not nervous about the expedition, despite the fact she has little experience on a Ski-Doo. But she is preparing herself for the cold she knows she will face.

“With physical activity, everything is harder when it’s cold,” she said. “It will be extremely physically demanding.”

This won’t be the first time Warren explores the arctic region of Nunavik, though. She enjoyed a two-month visit to the area in 2010.

“It was just so beautiful,” she said. “I understand now why explorers have a draw to these wild, exotic locations.”

Warren noted that the majority of the journey takes place away from any civilization.

“I love it up there. It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s an interesting feeling to be so isolated out somewhere and know that for miles and miles, there’s nothing around you.”

Ross appreciates Warren’s involvement as the only person from the United States in the group.

“We figured that it wouldn’t go further than the province of Quebec, but with Linsey’s involvement, it makes it an international project,” he said.

It’s going to be a difficult undertaking, but Ross said he is confident Warren is prepared.

“It certainly will not be easy and it will test her in many ways which I hope could only strengthen her in her future endeavors,” he said.

Despite the challenges to come, Warren finds the journey well worth it.

“This trip is about dreams,” she said. “It’s about having the strength to fight for our dreams — whether that dream is to live to see another birthday or to follow our hearts to new adventures.”

Fundraising is well under way for the group’s members, who hope to raise $65,000 for the hospital.

“We were one of the lucky ones and we don’t want anyone to give up hope,” Ross said. “We believe that what we raise can help.”

Chantale Fortin works as an events manager for the hospital. French is the hospital’s operating language, but Fortin is the English-speaking liaison for this particular project.

She praised the project and encouraged anyone with questions about the hospital or donations to contact her office.

Warren encourages everyone to donate, because cancer crosses all international borders.

“If anyone’s ever had a loved one suffer through any medical crisis, not even just cancer, I think they know how painful it is,” Warren said. “Here’s a chance to help a complete stranger to not have to suffer through the same things and get the help that might have been out of reach.”

How to help

To donate money for the oncology department of St. Jerome’s Hospital just outside Montreal, email Chantale Fortin, or call 1-450-431-8484, ext. 3.

Christina Corrales-Toy is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at

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