Storm the Stairs – Counsellor taps into passion to raise funds for United Way

Breaking a good sweat for a cause is worth every bit of fight to the finish line, especially for world-class amateur fighter River Jones.

Breaking a good sweat for a cause is worth every bit of fight to the finish line, especially for a world-class amateur fighter.

River Jones, formerly ranked second in the world for mixed martial arts, hasn’t hung up her gloves for good.

The Trail Freedom Quest youth addictions worker and counsellor still teaches combat to youth and while on maternity leave managed to get back in the ring to raise funds for United Way Trail and District.

Along with coworker Amanda Lamke, outreach worker and hospital liaison, Jones held three by-donation classes in Trail to help raise funds for the giving organization’s kick-off event, Storm the Stairs.

The $240 collected toward their efforts will set Jones and Lamke in motion this Saturday, as they tackle about 1,500 stairs and run/walk four kilometres.

“When you’re passionate about a sport, and you can bring that to people, and they enjoy it, it obviously feels really good,” said Jones.

She’ll be put to the test Saturday with the event that starts at 9 a.m. at the Piazza Colombo Park (registration at 8 a.m.) in Trail.

Participants will make their way through staircases on the west side and finish with a block party held at the park. The event proceeds will be invested in local programs and services that help hundreds of local people every year via the 2015 Campaign Fund.

“The support that we do get from volunteers and donors from the organizations that we work with has been wonderful,” said Naomi McKimmie, executive director of Trail United Way.

“One of the ways that it has benefitted all involved is to help bring awareness to what it is we, as the United Way, do but also what it is that these agencies do for the individuals in our communities.”

The United Way plays a major role in community building by providing financial support to affiliate agencies that meet guidelines of supporting the mental, physical and social well-being of individuals in the community.

In the last nine years, the Trail organization has invested nearly $506,000 into Greater Trail communities.

These funds have supported non-profits like Freedom Quest, which provides youth substance use services and other programs for the West Kootenay Boundary region.

“Without their funding we wouldn’t be able to offer a lot of the outside-the-box programming that we do,” explained Jones.

Funding fosters various programs like girl groups that focus on healthy relationships, safe sex education, emergency food and personal hygiene supplies and a safe space for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) youth.

For these reasons, signing up was a no brainer for Jones, who also had a lot of fun sharing her passion pre race day.

“I love training just for fun, just to stay fit,” she said. “I still get together and spar some of my training partners and friends.

“I love to teach, and I’m really grateful I can do that through my work.”

Jones had to pull away from her bid to make it professional when a hip injury needed more attention than anticipated.

“I had to take a step back when I was hurt, and I hung onto that for a long time,” she admits. “But once I had (my baby), life changed so much and it was really amazing because now that I’m not in the gym as much, life kind of opened up a lot more.”

She has been preparing for the race this weekend but said, in a way it “might be best not to know what you’re in for.”

McKimmie said registration has been slow, which prompted her to extend the chance the sign up to today. Online registration can be found at and can be done up to midnight tonight for $50 with an expectation of $150 raised in pledges. Offline registration can be done right up to 15 minutes before the race starts (8:45 a.m. Saturday) in person at the park for $75.

Those interested in volunteering at the event, can contact McKimmie at 250-364-0999, email or drop into the office at 855 Farwell St (across from Ferraro Foods).

“So many individuals are into a healthier active lifestyle now, and we thought that (this event) would be a great fit for many reasons,” said McKimmie, who came up with the idea years ago when she worked in tourism at the Trail Visitor Centre. Her intention is to promote healthier activities that can be done year round while showcasing the unique covered stairs in Trail, along with a possibility of recruiting new donors to the United Way.

Storm the Stairs kicks off campaign month, which also includes Park-With-Us, held Sept. 24. The annual drive has the City of Trail waiving parking fees for downtown, which allows the United Way to sell meter signage to donors as another way of topping up funds.

For more information on United Way Trail and District, visit