- Associated Press - Friday, March 10, 2017

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Family and friends of a Rapid City woman who died hiking to Macchu Picchu are raising money to bring her body back home from Peru.

Multiple fundraising efforts around the area were created to help Whitney Stevens’ family raise nearly $20,000 to get her body from Peru, the Rapid City Journal (https://bit.ly/2mtRhIN ) reported.

Stevens, along with her friend Molly Goin, embarked on the five-day trek from Mollepata, Peru, to the historic Incan city of Macchu Picchu on Feb. 27. On their hike’s third day, a previous storm caused the dirt beneath Stevens to give way, resulting in her fatal fall from the mountainside into the raging Urubamba River below.

“She was one of the most resilient and adaptable humans I think I’ve ever met,” Goin said. “Her ability to make her friends feel like family was overwhelming.”

She said Stevens was a former National Guard member who served in Iraq and Kuwait from July 2011 to May 2012, so pushing through difficult terrain and physically trying circumstances were no problem.

“She was able to conquer literally any task that was presented to her with such positivity and optimism,” Goin said. “She was one of the most positive people regardless of what was going on in her life.”

To help the Stevens family, the Black Hills Credit Union established the Whitney Stevens Memorial Fund. A GoFundMe campaign that already has nearly $6,000 pledged was also created. A local car salesman, Zach Branich, along with local salon Bridget’s Hot Trendz Salon have started fundraising efforts to contribute to the memorial fund.

Stevens’ mom, Roberta Ellis-Stevens, said she will always remember the way her daughter would light up a room when she entered.

“It will always be that smile,” she said. “Every picture you see of her, she’s smiling and she’s got that glow.”

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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