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Hi, I’m Lewi! Thanks so much for your interest in the 158 Challenge!

I’ve included this page for those of you that are curious about the inspiration behind creating the fundraising challenge. So, if your curiosity is peaked, keep reading!

A note – the further it goes, the deeper it gets. Just sayin’! 🙂

Firstly, a (very) little bit about my background. I grew up in the suburbs of Hobart’s eastern shore, Tasmania, before moving to Launceston in the state’s north to study architecture. Upon graduation, I moved to both Melbourne and Auckland to work in mixed-use architectural firms, before returning to Tasmania in 2018 to begin my own architectural building design practice. I still run that today (well, with a 158-day, self-approved leave), and as such spend a lot of time sitting down to design and draw functional, ‘beautiful’ houses.

My inspiration to create the 158 Challenge came out of a desire, upon returning from travelling overseas, to enhance balance in my life. Ultimately, I realised my purpose was not only to make my clients’ dreams come true – it was also to get up on my feet to connect people with nature, and with each other.

Luckily, I’ve since had the pleasure of becoming a qualified lead walking guide, and continue to enjoy facilitating people’s enjoyment of Tasmania’s natural beauty and cultural richness.

At the beginning of 2020, I returned from travelling many months in Mexico (long live the taco cart) and Central America. In search of meaning as to where my life was headed, and after finding myself on a 6-day, 100km off-grid jungle trek through Guatemala’s El Mirador with a bunch of beautiful strangers, I had a new fire in my belly. I wanted to show off the beauty of Tasmania to the world.

During a long sleep-in, my brother messaged me. It was a link to a beer company in the US paying someone to promote their beer along the Appalachian trail. And whilst only US citizens could apply, it sparked a sequence of thoughts and ideas – one of them being to circumnavigate Tasmania on foot for a year, promoting local businesses along the way – that ultimately led to a conversation with my amazing friend and ‘challenge manager’, Jan.

I had discovered the 158 Abels, and Zane Robnik’s amazing feat of summiting them all in just 2 ½ years! Perhaps stupidly, I said, “158 Abels? What if I could do them in 158 days?” The look on Jan’s face said everything – I had to try.

This new idea took up every spare thought in my brain. The mental challenge. The physical brutality. All of it frightening, all of it enlightening. From my family saying I’m insane, to friends calling out my inability to plan, to people I’ve never met calling me crazy, to hikers experienced in Tasmania’s wilderness saying “gee, you’re mental, but maybe, MAYBE it could be done…” – everything was about me and my challenge.

Then it stopped.

A year after celebrating the 5-year milestone of radiating away her DCIS, my mum told me it was back.

Breast cancer.

Not much prepares you for these moments in life. The only inkling is a seriousness of tone and a stillness of presence, when she quietly utters your name. “Lewi”.

Such moments leave you feeling many things, and they’re all okay. Scared. Lost. Helpless. Sad. Angry… Then for me, motivated. Motivated to do anything possible within my power to make my mum okay, and to ensure a future where she could continue to be my rock. Thankfully, again, it was discovered early, and quick decisions and actions were made to provide the best chance of a cancer-free future. My motivation was to be at her side until this all blew over and went away again. And it did.

But that’s just it with cancer, isn’t it? We don’t talk about it when it doesn’t affect us, and then it’s all-consuming when it does. Then, finally, when it or the one it inhabits passes, we try to and begin to forget about it.

I just cannot accept this narrative any longer. We need to do more, normalise the conversation, and be as open as we can so that we can be there for others when they need us.

Now, Jan’s not my most emotional friend – he’ll be the first to admit that – but I found myself talking to him about my experience, and once again, talking about the challenge. The idea was still there, burning in the background. I said I had a new mission – to use the challenge as a vehicle for a new fundraiser, and raise as much awareness and funds as little old me possibly could, for Cancer Council Tasmania. He liked it.

I said, “it sounds crazy, but what if we could raise $158,000 – $1,000 per mountain?” Well, once again, I got that same look from him that I did when I first came up with the original idea…

So began, the 158 Challenge.

(Oh, and yes, everyone still thinks I’m crazy… Mostly my mum!)