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Family ditches possessions, begins hike to help youth

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Troy Shantz

A Corunna family has liquefied its assets and booked six months off work to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, all in the name of mental health awareness.

“My whole thoughts and reasoning behind picking the Pacific Crest is because it’s supposed to be the most mentally hard trail,” said Amanda Morten, who is undertaking the 4,280-kilometre hike with husband Larry and their 16-year-old daughter, Heaven-Lee.

The trail begins in southern California, near the Mexican border, and winds through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges north to the Canadian border.

The Mortens are set to begin on April 19 and arrive in British Columbia sometime this fall. Heaven-Lee will join them in June once her exams are complete.

Their goal is to raise money for Cody’s House, a youth mental health treatment centre planned for Simcoe County.

“I said to my husband, ‘This could be great if we could do this with a purpose,’” Amanda Morten said.

“If you’re not doing it for something and striving for something, then it’s much easier to quit.”

Cody’s House is the concept of Cody’s mom, Kari Smith, who has been a family friend of Morten’s since childhood. Smith began planning the treatment centre after Cody took his own life four years ago at the age of 17.

“It really hit close to home. Here’s a perfectly happy, healthy child and he’s always helping others,” said Morten.

“And there was just no signs, no nothing. It was just devastating to his family, our family, to everyone around.”

Organizers are raising funds for Cody’s House, which is where the Mortens’ epic journey comes in.

They hope to raise $20,000 for the facility while spreading awareness about youth mental health along the way. Not a penny will go toward their own trip expenses, Morten said.

To cover the $7,000 it is costing each of them the Mortens have been selling off possessions, including their motorboat, dirt bikes and hot tub. They also downsized their vehicle.

They even moved into the basement of their own home and rented out the upper floors to another family, and their daughter took on a part-time job.

Amanda Morten does wonder sometimes what their friends and family think about the trip.

“Half probably think we’re crazy and the other half are wondering if we’re actually gonna do it,” she said laughing.

They hope to cover 30 to 40 kilometres a day and in places will be away from civilization for a week at a time. “The main thing that I’m concerned about is the rattlesnakes, and I’m only concerned because you step on one it could potentially be the end of your hike,” she said, noting the trail also crosses bear and mountain lion habitat.

Bu the potential reward far outweighs any risks, she said.

“It’ll be a great accomplishment for us. It’ll be a wonderful thing for Cody’s House if we can raise this money, and just the awareness alone on why we’re hiking.”

If you would like to support the Mortens and Cody’s House, visit the GoFundMe page at

Their journey’s progress can be followed on Amanda Morten’s blog at

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