A flotilla of fun took to the waters between Willows Beach and Cadboro Bay to raise funds for children with cancer and their families. This year, the annual Paddle for Health event raised over $20,000 for Island Kids Cancer Association.
“Everybody’s there for the same reason. We’re all there to raise some money for the Kids Cancer Association and have some fun,” says Don Lowther, organizer of the 11th annual Paddle For Health.
“We’ve got volunteers who’ve been doing it 11 years now… and paddlers who this will be their fifth or sixth time coming out.”
Cancer survivors of all ages, and those in different stages of the illness come out each year, usually about 100 of them.
“The very first year, 11 years ago, I think I had 20. That was in Brentwood Bay,” says Lowther, an avid paddler who started the event in honour of his mom who died from cancer. “It made sense, that’s what I did, it made sense to try and turn that into something positive for a bunch of people.”
He expects they’ll reach beyond the $200,000 mark this year.
“Which is kind of nice for a little group of paddlers,” he says.
Glen Lyon Norfolk School and Sea Kayaking supply all their kayaks and canoes at no charge and Power To Be Adventure Society brings a large voyageur canoe. Paddleboards are donated by different organizations.
“Lots of first-timers come out. Everybody works together, the fast boats get ahead but everybody stops and waits,” Lowther says.
Launching from Willows Beach, paddlers cruise from Cattle Point into Cadboro Bay to Gyro Beach with a stop for a leg stretch and snack break before paddling back to Willows Beach to a waiting barbecue lunch.
“We have experienced guides and we have the Royal Canadian Search and Rescue come out and shadow the group the whole time for that extra safety factor,” Lowther says.
Paddlers participate with a voluntary $50 donation upon sign up with additional pledge collection expected. For the third year, funds raised support Island Kids Cancer Association.
“I think most people want to see a difference made in their own neighbourhoods,” Lowther says.
That’s the mandate says Susan Kerr, founder and program co-ordinator with the Island Kids Cancer Association.
“We provide practical support for children with cancer, and their families on Vancouver Island, through all stages of their cancer journey,” Kerr says.
It supports programs such as CARE 4 Kids (connection, assistance, resources and emergency), offering personal connection, support and resources through community programs.
“We provide practical support but as our board is made up of mostly families who have been there and community people who are integrated in this journey as well, we have a sense of practical support could mean emergency travel vouchers … or mental health and wellness,” Kerr says. “There are layers to it … what we provide that you don’t often see is the individual one-0on-one relationship you have with the families. Every family is unique and has individual needs.”
A recently developed community connection includes Victoria Conservatory of Music through music therapy programming.
“That’s a new partnership I’m super excited about, working with them, offering families and kids support on an individual basis,” she says. “Right now we’re looking at one-on-one support for kids.”
While many think of counsellors and psychologists, realistically there’s play therapy, art therapy and music therapy to appeal to a variety of ages and characters of children. “We want to delve into all of that.”
“Paddle for Health is an amazing magical day … filled with hope, full hearts and plenty of hugs,” Kerr says. “It truly symbolizes what it means to be part of a community.”
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.