The Upstream Challenge event runs for the entire month of May in a number of different locations. (Submitted)

The Upstream Challenge event runs for the entire month of May in a number of different locations. (Submitted)

Abbotsford’s Run For Water transforms into Upstream Challenge for 2021

Throughout the month of May participants can take on a number of different activities in the Valley

When the COVID-19 pandemic threw a curveball into the plans for the Run For Water fundraising event in 2020, organizers picked themselves up, cleaned themselves off and quickly put together the successful Alone Together Run last May.

With the pandemic still lingering, Run For Water has transformed again for 2021 – with a brand new format and concept known as the Upstream Challenge.

The Upstream Challenge: presented by Run for Water and Envision Financial from Run for Water on Vimeo.

Starting on May 1 and running all month, the Upstream Challenge gives participants access to a number of different competitive or non-competitive outdoor activities. A one-time registration fee gives users the chance to complete the challenges as many times as they like. All funds raised go towards helping building clean water projects in some of the most remote and marginalized areas of Ethiopia.

Anyone interested in participating can sign up for the event online right now at runforwater.ca.

The challenges take place in scenic trails and parks across the Fraser Valley, including one challenge at the Sea Wall in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. One unique part of the event is that every challenge completed will see $35 donated to help the community of Hawo in Ethiopia gain access to clean water for life.

Users will also be entered into a draw to win a $50 gift card to use anywhere at Abbotsford’s Highstreet Shopping Centre.

Organizers Peg Peters and Ray Sawatsky said the Upstream Challenge should be a fun and unique way to raise money and allow users the chance to experience some of the great outdoors in their backyard.

“The challenge is how do you create a virtual event that hasn’t been done a million times,” Peters said. “So we sat down with our sponsors and we really tried to create something more local. It’s a great opportunity to get out there and try out some of our local areas.”

Challenges can include everything from runs, hikes, walks, cycling and family-friendly events. Those who want to be more competitive can use the Strava app to time and track their progress and compare results to other users.

Another interesting aspect to the Upstream Challenge is that organizers have created a school program where teachers can participate and sign up their class to challenge other classes. Sawatsky said response to that program has been great, noting that businesses also have the ability to challenge each other.

“These teachers are getting excited about challenging other schools to get classrooms active,” he said. “We’re getting buy-in there and from different businesses wanting to challenge each other. It’s all for a great cause and just the idea of getting outside is really the only thing right now that we know for sure is a good idea. We will be doing it safely with social distancing and following all the guidelines too.”

The pair also pointed out that there will be a number of door prizes for those who register early and there will also be daily prizes for all those who participate.

Peters and Sawatsky also pointed out that they are hoping that 2022 is the year things can finally return to normal for their event. The 2022 Run For Water traditional race is scheduled for May 30, 2022.

“We’re really hopeful that we get good vaccinations and by the time May rolls around in 2022 we can come together as a community and celebrate,” Peters said. “We could finally be together in a big event and I think people are missing that. I can’t wait for that vibe of being on the start line with 3,000 or 4,000 people all for the same cause. It’ll also be our 15th year so we’re really banking on that being a big celebration.”

For more on the event, visit runforwater.ca.

RELATED: Abbotsford’s Run For Water morphs into Alone Together Run

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The Upstream Challenge event runs for the entire month of May in a number of different locations. (Submitted)