Since 2008 a dedicated group of volunteers and participants recruited by local kayaker Don Lowther, has passionately combined their love for paddling with philanthropy through an annual fundraising event in the waters off Victoria British Columbia. In 2014 Paddle for Health was born; building on the tremendous success and popularity of our annual paddling fundraiser, we would now grow to promote healthy outdoor living through year-round paddling events.
Don’s motivation to have an annual paddling fundraising event in Victoria was the loss of his mother to cancer in January of 2005. The following summer Don was on a 40 day kayak trip completing a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island and during those days had a great deal of time to think. He decided while paddling down the west coast of the Island that he was going to honour his mother’s memory by using paddling to support those facing cancer. Don’s mom was not a fan of small boats, so would never have tried kayaking herself. But, through photographs he would take on his paddling adventures, Don’s mom was able to experience the beauty and freedom of the ocean environment that only a paddler can truly understand.
The mission has since grown to promoting healthy living through year-round paddling activities (Stay tuned!) and through the annual Paddle for Health fundraising event we continue to support cancer patients and their families. We have all been touched by cancer in some way and Paddle for Health is a healthy positive way to gather and share the paddling experience in support of cancer patients and their families.
“I do it for many reasons, for those I have lost to cancer: my mom, my two grandmothers, a great-grandmother, aunt Evelyn, uncle Charlie, cousin Nicole and several respected colleagues. But most importantly, I do this for those who are still here: my daughter and her little sister, my niece, nephews, sisters, dad, family, friends, colleagues and countless people I’ll never know or meet who ‘deserve’ a life free from the struggles brought on by cancer”.
Why here ? Victoria is a paddler’s mecca ! Here in Victoria you can’t travel more than 5 minutes without passing by a car with one or more kayaks on the roof heading for a put-in. Go to any beach or waterfront, look out onto the water and you will invariably see SUPs, kayakers, canoes and paddle sport racers in-training as far as the eye can see. On one side of town we have the incredible southern Gulf Islands, across the Salish Sea behind them the majestic Mt. Baker stands watch in the background. Looking to the south, we have a backdrop of the magnificent Olympic Mountains with Juan de Fuca Straight shimmering out in front. It just doesn’t get any better than this for paddling in your own back yard !
Island Kids Cancer Association
It started 12 years ago when Susan Kerr’s son, Jacob, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Months of treatment followed with endless trips to Vancouver.
What was different about Susan’s experience was her decision to help families who were on the same difficult road.
She started with advocacy trying to work with banks and politicians to raise awareness about the severe financial challenges families faced. This grew into a fledgling program supported by Vancouver based BC Childhood Cancer Parents Association.This program ended in 2016, but the need to expand support for island children and address the many challenges that local families faced continued to grow.
With a small group of volunteers, Susan started again. On Dec. 6, 2016 the Island Kids Cancer Association became a reality.
Our CARE4KIDS program is designed to give practical help to kids and families wherever they are in the cancer journey.
Now only months into our program, we are excited to share our progress. But this is just the beginning.
We will continue to expand community support for all of our special kids and make sure families know that they are not alone.
In February 2017, Susan learned her son had a second cancer.
She will continue to lead the program while supporting him through the next eight months of treatment.
Her experience is a stark reminder about why we are here and it motivates us to work hard to make a difference.
Thank you for joining us!