A maroon belt is tightly fixed around Stacey Roche's waist, blending into her red and white striped T-shirt.

With one large push, she stands up. Exercise physiologist Brennan Mullan grips the left-hand side of the belt and team leader Aaron Balsom is to her right.

She takes a few careful steps on the boardwalk right outside of the Mount Maunganui surf club.

"Alright, let's do this," she says, looking up towards the summit of Mauao.


She doesn't glance back at her wheelchair, she won't be needing it for the next couple of hours.

It's Roche's 40th birthday so she is doing "something a little crazy" and walking up to the top of Mauao for the first time.

It's a path often walked by locals and visitors but for Roche, it's her "Everest."

She has cerebral palsy and only a year ago was fully dependant on her wheelchair.

Roche has been working on her mobility and fitness every day since moving to Mount Maunganui a year and a half ago.

At least five times a week she is at SwitchedOn Exercise and Wellness Centre working with Mullan and since the beginning of the year, she has been focused on the challenge of making it to the top of Mauao.

Roche has been raising money for SwitchedOn to buy new equipment for the gym. Her Givealittle page has already raised more than $2500.

"I see the Mount every day and everyone goes up it, so why shouldn't I?" Roche told the Bay of Plenty Times at a gym training last month.

It's a hot day and the sun is beating down on those climbing up and down the mountain, including Roche and her entourage of supporters.

A third of the way up Roche stops for her second water break.

"Wow, what a view," she says looking out toward Leisure Island. Pilot Bay is still visible around the corner and a cruise ship is docked.

It's the first time she's seen Mount Maunganui from this angle.

Water breaks don't take very long, Roche is on a mission to make it to the top.

The stairs become steeper and more daunting to look up at but Roche keeps one foot in front of the other. Every step is a small goal achieved in the bigger picture of making it to the summit.

Nearly every person that passes the groups cheers Roche on and offers her encouragement.

"Happy birthday," a runner shouts as he passes.

Stacey Roche made it to the summit of Mauao in an hour and 20 minutes. Photo/ Amy Diamond
Stacey Roche made it to the summit of Mauao in an hour and 20 minutes. Photo/ Amy Diamond

An hour and 20 minutes after taking her first steps, Roche appears around the last bend.

Clapping and cheering erupts as she makes it to the top, her arms fly into the air and she lets out a cheer herself.

Her parents, Karen and Andy Roche, are waiting at the top with a bottle of champagne.

"This is what I came up here for," Roche jokes as she takes a well-deserved swig.

"We are so proud of her," Andy Roche says.

Stacey's Mount Climb
Funds raised from Stacey's walk will go towards buying more equipment for the SwitchedOn Exercise and Wellness Centre. The centre is governed by The SILC Charitable Trust and was established to provide specialised training and mobility services to those affected by either temporary or permanent disability.
To donate visit- givealittle.co.nz staceys mount challenge

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