Each year I embark on a number of community projects to help me keep me connected to my community and people around me. This year I will be focusing on four key areas:
- Challenging perceptions around people with disabilities
- Developing a better understanding of our local waterways
- Giving back to my community
- Supporting my MS (Multiple Sclerosis) family
Challenging Perceptions Around People with Disabilities
I am fascinated by the number of reasons people think of to justify why someone can’t or shouldn’t do something; especially when it comes to people with disabilities. I am here to bust the myths – we should, we can, and we do achieve great things.
One of my greatest joys in life is coaching the Spirit Orcas – a group of “Special Olympic” athletes who have embraced the open water. I am thrilled to be their coach, number 1 supporter and friend.
Four years ago they swam the length of Cowichan Lake relay style. Three years ago they swam a 20km relay through Gunboat Pass to Bella Bella in the Great Bear Rainforest. Two summers ago they completed the Great Big Swim, and 80 km staged swim around the tip of Vancouver Island.
Their adventures continued last summer with a number of swims in Haro Strait as well as 3 of them swimming their first 5km ocean swims. My friend Meliah, who became the first known person with Down Syndrome to swim 5 KM in a lake, completed a 5km ocean swim this year and was nominated for the World Open Water Swim Associations Performance of the year.
This year the Spirt Orcas hope to continue their journey in the Great Bear Rainforest and swim Hunter Channel. A number of them are also looking to do individual distance swims to challenge themselves more than they ever have before. I am also working with them on Swimming with Spirt Orcas; a project where the Spirit Orcas will be coaching others to swim in the open water.
Developing a better understanding of our waterways
Three years ago, I swam through the Inside Passage in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest to Koeye. This was my fourth swim on the central coast of British Columbia. It is here where I have encountered whales, jellyfish larger than any I could have ever imagined, and learned about the role the sea and the land play in living a health life. My Great Bear Swims have been paused due to COVID-19. I hope to return this year and swim to Hakai.
Giving back to my community
This year I started #SwimGift – a project where the gift of swimming keeps on giving. You can learn more here.
Supporting my MS (Multiple Sclerosis) family
As part of my own journey as a person living with a disability (MS) each year I plan a swim to raise awareness about the benefit of exercise for people living with MS. I also use this as an opportunity to raise funds for the MS Wellness Centre, a non-profit I started with my friend Diane Thompson when the MS Society closed our centre in Victoria. We wanted to make sure our community stayed together as we are key supports for one another. We also wanted to provide fitness programs for those who can’t afford them.
This year I hope to swim the length of Powel Lake in Powell River, British Columbia. It is a 50km lake in the traditional territory of the Tla’amin Nation. I hope to raise funds for programs for people with MS living in that community.
I also organize the Thetis Lake Swim for MS every year with my good friend MJ VanBergen. The past two summers the swim is on pause due to COVID-19. If possible, we will restart this year.