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Thief thwarts MS hike to Mexico

STEPHANIE IP, 24 HOURS
Mitch Ouellette checks out hiking and camping gear at Mountain Equipment Coop in Vancouver, Tuesday. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

Mitch Ouellette checks out hiking and camping gear at Mountain Equipment Coop in Vancouver, Tuesday. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

Mitch Ouellette planned to hike from Mexico to Canada as a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis, that is until $3,000 worth of gear was stolen from his girlfriend's car.

"I'll be honest, I broke down," said the 32-year-old hiker whose mom was diagnosed with MS five years ago.

"A year of planning just went running out the door."

Now Ouellette is scrambling to replace his gear before his hike with two friends on the Pacific Crest Trail, scheduled to start May 16.

His gear was stolen Sunday around 8:30 p.m. after a fundraiser for the three at Cinema Public House on Granville Street. Guests were asked to guess the weight of the hikers' backpacks as a part of the evening's entertainment.

Cleaning up afterwards, Ouellette stashed his gear in his girlfriend's car. When he returned, a back window was smashed and the gear was gone.

"It was like someone punched me in the gut," said the Toronto transplant.

Insurance fine print means only half the gear will be covered; the rest is Ouellette's responsibility. Friends have pitched in to help replace the gear but even then, Ouellette still comes up short.

Ouellette, who was hoping to raise $5,000 for the MS Society of Canada, is disheartened but hopes his two friends will continue the hike, with or without him.

Their fundraiser, Take A Hike, MS!, is still accepting pledges and donations on Facebook and online at http://bit.ly/takeahikems.