In 2019, I embarked on my journey through the Sahara Desert with a group of people I barely knew. To say I was nervous is an understatement. The thought of blistering heat during the day and freezing cold temperatures at night, paired with my fear of bugs and blisters, was daunting. Those who knew me were shocked I’d be a part of something like this, given my dislike of hiking and the rugged outdoors.
But this was different.
By my side were 30 other Royal LePage REALTORS®, all connected by our common goal of supporting the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation. I was trekking for Cornerstone Family Violence Prevention Centre in Northumberland County, an organization that provides invaluable support to women and children in my community. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the people Cornerstone supports, and their perseverance through their struggles inspired me. I took on this trek, faced my fears, and began this journey all because of these incredible survivors.
They were the ones who motivated me – the ones who pushed me through the heat, the cold, and all my other fears.
My name is Lindsey Edwards, and this is my Real Heart story.
Community-centric. That’s my philosophy.
As my career progressed, I wanted to give back to my community and give others the same love and care that they gave me.
I started by becoming a commission donor with Royal LePage, donating a portion of my sales to the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation. All the money raised for the Shelter Foundation goes towards supporting local women’s shelters, which in my case is the Cornerstone Family Violence Centre.
That’s how I first got involved with Cornerstone, and how I got to know the incredible, brave survivors in the shelter. I quickly realized the impact an organization like this can have on a community, and how important it is to show them support.
So, when the Shelter Foundation announced the Sahara Desert Challenge for Shelter, I knew this was my chance to step up and make a big difference. It was the perfect opportunity to raise the money and awareness Cornerstone deserves.
After being accepted to go on the trek, along with 30 other REALTORS® across the country, I was tasked with raising $5,000 for the Shelter Foundation and for Cornerstone.
I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. I had committed to a trek halfway across the world and I wanted to push myself even further. I decided to up the fundraising stakes and raise more than the $5,000 minimum. I set myself personal a goal to raise $10,000.
Turns out raising $10,000 is no small task. Even with a supportive community, I had to find a creative and fun way to engage people. I didn’t just want to raise money, I wanted to do something so people remembered who I was helping and why. That’s where Flocked 4 Shelter was born.
Flocked 4 Shelter was a by-product of looking through a ton of Pinterest boards for creative inspiration. How it works is someone orders a “flock” of flamingoes for a friend or family member. I then go out and put plastic flamingos on their lawn or in front of their business, with a sign that says, “You’ve Been Flocked!” The reactions are the best part. No one expects to wake up to a flock of flamingos on their lawn, so when they do, they can’t help but smile!
Flocked 4 Shelter quickly took off throughout the community and I was overwhelmed by the support. It was amazing to see that those who had been flocked made donations to “flock” someone back or to pass it on to their own friends and family.
With the help of some additional creative fundraisers, we blew past my big $10,000 goal and raised a total of $37,500.
With the money raised for Cornerstone, now came the really hard part – trekking across the Sahara Desert. Five straight days of walking through some of the toughest terrain in the world with no electricity, cell phones or any other support. Just each other. We trekked for seven hours each day and having to endure the extreme heat and burning sun took a toll on me. I wasn’t used to these types of conditions.
The first few nights were really tough. We were dealing with close to freezing temperatures and I felt uneasy sleeping in an unfamiliar place, let alone with so many strangers. I was awake most of those first few nights, hearing the sounds of my fellow tent-mates and the stillness of the desert air. I was completely out of my element, and, truthfully, there were moments where I questioned if I was in over my head. But, as the first few days passed, it became easier, those strangers became friends, and I saw the challenge for what it was – an incredible opportunity and a once in a lifetime experience.
As we trekked through the sand dunes day after day, we talked about our causes and how we came to be there. I was reminded every day – through the searing heat and the cold nights – the importance of shelter and having a safe place to call home. I never stopped thinking about the incredible women at Cornerstone and what they experience every day.
I didn’t just trek the Sahara for Cornerstone, I made it through because of them.
“My why is always Cornerstone.”
While there have been many high points throughout my fundraising journey, there have also been challenges that pushed me to want to do more.
The impact of COVID-19 on Cornerstone has been devastating. For the first time, capacity at the shelter has been limited.
As COVID-19 forced more people into lockdown, domestic violence cases began to rise. Meanwhile, Cornerstone was forced to renovate the shelter to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, which made it difficult for women and children to not only access resources, but to access the home for shelter and safety. If there was ever a time where Cornerstone needed help, it was now.
I knew I needed to act, so I brought back Flocked 4 Shelter. I got to work recruiting more volunteers and made sure we could safely raise money together. During the summer, we planted dozens of flamingos and raised over $5,000, with all proceeds going directly to Cornerstone.
Fundraising wasn’t always easy for me. I learned what worked through trial and error. But, if you love and are passionate about something, you’ll continue to pursue it and do everything in your power to make it a success.
“If you love and are passionate about something, you’ll continue to pursue it and do everything in your power to make it a success.”
My number one tip for people looking to get started is to start small and try not to get overwhelmed. You should begin with feeling inspired and knowing you want to give back. From there, your inspiration and sense of purpose will only grow stronger. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend trekking across one of the largest deserts in the world as your first fundraising effort, but if that’s what motivates you – run with it!
I learned that you need to be a person who wants to give. It’s not about your name in lights – you should want to genuinely help your charity and make a difference.
As a Real Heart Ambassador, I’m excited to be able to support and encourage other people looking to help their communities.
My hope is to inspire at least one person. If only one person reads my story and becomes inspired to do more in their community – that’s a win for me.
“It’s not about your name in lights – you should want to genuinely help your charity and make a difference.”
Lindsey is now preparing for the Purcell Mountain Challenge for Shelter, her next adventure, this time in Canada. To learn more about this challenge, about Flocked 4 Shelter, and about the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, please visit the links below.
Lindsey’s page for the Purcell Mountain Challenge for Shelter: https://www.shelterwithlinz.com/
Flocked 4 Shelter: https://royallepage.myetap.org/fundraiser/flocked4shelter2021/
Royal LePage Shelter Foundation: https://www.royallepage.