Massaro: Woman Scales Heights to Help the Downtrodden
July 22, 2008
MASSARO: Woman scales heights to help the downtrodden
By Gary Massaro
Originally published 02:21 p.m., July 17, 2008
Updated 11:53 p.m., July 17, 2008
Debbie Welle-Powell gets high to help others who need a boost.
That's high as in snowcapped peaks. Welle-Powell climbs mountains to raise funds for Climbing for a Cause, her project to raise funds for the under- and uninsured. She sets out to climb a mountain with hopes of raising $100,000, which she donates to two Denver clinics. This year, she came up short, raising $72,000. Her team was chased off Mount Elbrus in Russia by bad weather.
"Making the summit is an option," she said. "Coming back down is not."
She has climbed Mont Blanc in France, Huayna Potosi in Bolivia and two volcanoes in Mexico. For fun, she has climbed almost all of Colorado's Fourteeners.
Welle-Powell, 51, is vice president of payer strategies and legislative services for Exempla Healthcare.
A friend introduced her to hiking, which led to climbing mountains in 1999. Another friend asked her to help raise funds for charity. So she put the two together for her cause, getting lump sum donations from corporations.
She's a native of Minnesota.
"I'm a prairie girl," she said. "That's why I like the mountains so much. I always envisioned living in the mountains."
She plays tennis and skis, but the prospects in Minnesota aren't so hot for downhill. So after she finished her undergraduate degree, she moved to Denver, where she received a master's degree in hospital administration from CU-Denver.
Helping people is something that goes way back. She had been a candy striper in Minnesota.
The money she collects climbing goes to Inner City Health Center in Five Points and Clinic Tepeyac at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in north Denver.
"If I raise $100,000, I can take care of 40 families for one year with preventative health and dental needs," she said.
She has climbed for her cause, on average, every three years.
"Climbing mountains is easy," she said. "Raising funds is hard."
Her next climb may be Mount McKinley in three years - for $500,000.
"Think big," she said. "Mountains are big."
First, she plans to learn Spanish and volunteer at clinics.
"I'm just one of thousands in this community that each day try to make a difference," she said. "It's important to give money and time. If you're not giving back to your country, you don't know what our country's about. If you're not giving back, you're taking. Our founding fathers left their homes and families to fight for a cause. They gave of their time and money to make this world better."
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