Manuel “Manny” Pizarro’s office at his childhood home in Pointe-Claire acts as a life-sized scrapbook. It becomes apparent as one enters the room that this 35-year-old man has experienced a lifetime of adventures.
Almost 40 badges hang from the walls, representing an unbelievable array of search and rescue teams, first nations and police departments from Alaska to California. The most notable badge is that of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Being a member of the RCMP has been a significant part of Manny’s life, but one that is now sitting on the back burner. In the meantime, his sights have been set on a different yet incredibly momentous goal. Manny will not be satisfied until he climbs the highest mountain; literally. This week Manny will leave Montreal and begin an expedition to Mount Everest.
Reaching the summit of Mount Everest has been a dream of Manny’s since he was 12 years old. It started when a grade six research paper led him to National Geographic photos of the legendary mountain. The images inspired an unprecedented passion in the struggling student.
“That was when the love affair, call it that, began,” recalls Manny. Since then he has always kept a picture of this dream nearby. As proof of this, Manny gestures fondly to a large poster of Mount Everest on his office wall, one that he has looked to for motivation now more than ever.
Mountain climbing has always been a large part of Manny’s life, one that took him all over the world, but he never considered it anything more than a hobby and concentrated on other means to financial security. After a decade of police service, Manny found he had lost the passion he once had for that line of work so he returned home with a new drive, this time directed towards earning his university diploma. He continues to study today at Concordia University as a sociology undergrad.
While Manny was happy to return to the comfort of his home and proud to be setting out to achieve academic success, the bills began to pile up. After spending his last $20, Manny was determined to find a job in Montreal, so he picked up his address book and started dialling.
He didn’t put the phone down until a job sprang up unexpectedly; one that was, to say the least, new territory. That job was working with special needs children as an integration aide for the Lester B. Pearson school board.
The job that answered his desperate search developed into an experience that benefited Manny just as much as it did the young students he helped. “It turned out to be a very versatile and rewarding job. Other than financially, it was an amazing opportunity and that is how, ironically, Everest came to be,” Manny recounts enthusiastically.
Thanks to the help of Manny’s reputation as a climber and many people within the school board, project ‘Everest 2007 Learning Without Limits’ was the answer to Manny’s childhood dream.
Beyond that, climbing Mount Everest has turned into “a beautiful bright educational objective,” as Manny proudly refers to it. The money raised from the expedition will be going to the Pearson Educational Foundation, which came as no surprise to Manny’s friend and neighbour, Tim Comerford.
“It’s very much like Manny to find some way to do this for charity,” said Comerford matter-of-factly. “This is his dream, but he would never go about it in a selfish way.”
In the months leading up to the expedition, Manny has taken a leave of absence from his work as an integration aide to prepare himself both physically and mentally. Of course, that’s not to say he hasn’t kept busy.
Manny, impressively well spoken in Spanish, French, and English, has been visiting schools as a motivational speaker. His message to the young students is three-fold: dare to dream, choose a dream and actualize that dream through education. Manny’s eyes light up with a youthful excitement as he explores this concept, which he has applied to his own life.
“You have to have the imagination and the courage to dream,” Manny says with conviction. “I want to be a carpenter, I want to be a skydiver, I want to do this. It gives me butterflies and it’s passion and I want to do it. Just like when you’re in love; they give you the butterflies and that’s how you know you’re in the right place. Your goals in life should give you that same feeling.”
With the world watching via satellite, Manny will soon begin the journey he’s been anticipating for nearly his whole life. At home in his office, Manny looks over at a piece of paper posted prominently by his beloved Mount Everest poster.
“I set a list of the seven summits that I wanted to achieve,” Manny explains in reference to the paper. “I have three down, four to go. Under Everest I wrote: ‘Summit will be reached May 17, 2007.’ Now give or take a few days, that’s my target date, that’s the date I feel in my heart.”
If his determination and past accomplishments say anything for him, Manuel Pizarro will be standing on top of the highest mountain in the world not a day later than May 17.