Tina Franchimone wanted to do something big for her 50th birthday.

So she and nine friends are going on a 33-mile, three-day hike in the hopes of raising $50,000 for Third World countries.

This is the second Trek for Hope, a hike near Estes Park, Colo., that benefits the religious-based, non-profit group Food for the Hungry. This year’s hike is officially called the “50 for 50” Trek for Hope in honor of Franchimone’s birthday goal.

Franchimone went on the first trek and was impressed by the beauty of hiking through Colorado. Combine that with her admiration for Food for the Hungry, which has workers on the ground in places like Haiti and Rwanda assessing needs and working with local residents, and getting a group together to raise money with a sponsored hike seemed like a no-brainer.

“I want to inspire people to consider vacations with a purpose,” Franchimone said.

The women have raised most of their goal so far – $46,000 as of last week – but are in a final push to get to $50,000. They leave for the hike on June 9.

“Our society is such that it’s all about me,” said Pat Foley, one of the hikers. “This is something where we can give back.”

Five of the 10 trekkers are from the Ahwatukee Foothills: Foley, Bitsie Fort, Marcia Campbell, Liz Mulhern and Pam Davies

Most of the trekkers know each other from Grace Community Church in Tempe, and they all love to hike. Many of the women have gone on adventures together before, including women’s retreats and mission trips all over the world, and this seemed like a good one to add to the list, Foley said.

“We saw Tina’s pictures from last year, and it’s an adventure,” Foley said.

The group has done some training to contend with the long hike, which includes challenges like getting to the summit of Twin Sisters Peak. But since it’s an “Inn to Inn” hike, which means the hikers will stay in bed and breakfasts each night, they’re not too worried about the strenuous conditions.

“We’re not roughing it too bad,” Fort said with a laugh.

Each woman is paying the cost of her own airfare, lodging and other expenses, so all money raised goes directly to Food for the Hungry. Those who donate can pick what their money goes toward out of an online catalogue. For instance, someone can buy doctor visits for five kids for $35 or a chicken for $25.

People who receive gifts like animals are taught to care for them, and baby animals can be given to neighbors, thus creating a renewable food source, Fort said.

Donors can also give a dollar amount that will go to the greatest need at that moment.

The women have had fun raising money for the project. Franchimone has hosted dinners, while Fort has convinced her real estate co-workers to chip in the $75 to buy a house.

“I’ve e-mailed my clients with the subject line, ‘Will you buy me a pig? Will you buy me a goat?’” Fort said. “Tina had 1,000 kids dewormed for my birthday.”

And if this hike is a success, they just may do it all over again.

“I was thinking, I turn 50 in a few years,” Fort said with a grin.

For more information on Food for the Hungry or to donate, visit www.fh.org/help/partners/trek.

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