Sixth Annual 13-km Swim

Day of challenge

The weather forecasters had predicted a sunny day with temperatures of 27 Celsius for the swim. Goodness, were they wrong! Rain started about 6:15 a.m. with two swimmers in the water and almost everyone else still heading to the Swift Rapids starting point.Despite frequent heavy rain, distant but approaching thunder and lightning, high winds before the storm then beautiful sunshine once all the swimmers were in. . . it was a very successful day with several swimmers achieving personal best times, and at the time of composing this story, we were closing in on $9,000 raised to find a cure for breast cancer, bringing our six year total to nearly $60,000.

Tremendous support

Mark Bang, 18, accompanied again this year by Paul Blackwell, was first into the water. Mark had an amazing swim this year, shaving two hours off his finishing time from last year, completing it in seven hours, 27 minutes. Paul was a tremendous support to him, keeping him on course through the wind and riding ahead of him as boats approached in the rain — Paul was easily seen in the bright red kayak. I had the joy of swimming in with Mark, this year joining him at the 11 km point and sprinting in with him at the end. He was tired but enthusiastic, waiting at the shoreline with a towel and booming encouragement for friend Adam who was our last swimmer to start.

Terrific teens

At 9 p.m. the night before, Tiffany Gillespie, 18, had a canoe but no paddlers to accompany her on her first swim. Three remarkable young women, Courtney Scott, 15, Bailey Scott, 13, and her friend Aleta Wilson, also 13, volunteered to get up at 4:30 a.m. to paddle beside Tiffany, having no idea what the day would hold for them. Tiffany started at 6 a.m. just after Mark and swam strongly into her unknown journey — she had not even seen the course when committing to the swim in June, motivated by the cause and women she knows (one a survivor, the other in active battle with breast cancer). What a team these teens were!At one point, after another drenching of rain, the crew had directed Tiffany to shelter at the shore to wait out the worst of the storm. They were shivering uncontrollably but had completed over six kms of the swim. A very kind cottage family offered them a chance to warm up in their hot tub. The girls happily accepted and received a donation once they explained what they were doing and why. Tiffany stated that it was really hard to get back into the much colder Severn River after the hot tub, but back she went, completing another two kms before giving in to exhaustion. . . a courageous first swim accompanied by three tenacious but drenched young women.

Achieving goals

Debbie Albaum completed the full distance this year, having finished the Severn Falls to Big Chute swim (7.8 kms) last year. Boss Steve Sedore and Leah Tallon accompanied her this year. Debbie was tired but jubilant at the end having swum strongly throughout and completing in seven hours, 10 minutes. Debbie also made an amazing contribution to the cause through her donations.Kevin Lord, 17, was accompanied by parents Len and Corinne. His goal this year was to swim further than last year’s four kms and he achieved this goal without a problem. Kevin completed 5.5 kms getting out at the train bridge and then paddling back to his cottage with his parents. Kevin was pleased with his distance this year and was present at the finish to cheer in the other swimmers and friends.

Eric Bang, 16, had a great swim this year, accompanied by his Uncle Jamie Myles from Michigan. Jamie is a very strong paddler and was able to stay beside Eric through the worst of the winds, helping him to stay on course and finish in five hours, 58 minutes. Eric is a strong runner, dedicating himself to numerous training sessions during the week but sparing little time to swim. This is an outstanding effort and time, proving once again the resiliency of youth.

Jennie Popplow, who turned 23 just days before the swim, finished with a personal best this year in six hours 13 minutes. The difference. . . “no training and not eating before I got into the water”. Jennie actually is running several times a week along with her weekly competitive baseball, but the not eating before getting into the water prevented the usual nausea she experienced in each of the five previous swims. She knew she had swum very well before even hearing her time and there was colour and excitement in her face at the end versus the usual pale, exhausted joy to be finished. This year Jennie was accompanied by mom Laura and Nikita Moores, her brother Adam’s special lady.

Bonnie Moore was accompanied by husband Ford again this year and also completed a personal best in five hours, 24 minutes. An amazing swim and wonderful donations to contribute to our total this year.

Tandem team Colleen Shields and Nicole Harrison were accompanied by Al Cox again this year and had an amazing swim. They swam very strongly and were the fastest swimmers, completing in four hours. Good luck with the Lake swim both of you, this swim indicates that you are more than ready!

It was another very early morning for Mike Hall and Kate Hall accompanied by dad Pat and Brock Bilous; and Louie Zavodni accompanied by David and Paul Campbell. Mike was Brock’s counselor at the McMaster Sport Camp three years ago. He and his family have attended the swim since that first summer, getting on the road in the wee hours of the morning to bring hope to some special women in their life. Brock Bilous remains a firm supporter of Mike, helping to raise donations for his team, and this year was delighted to paddle alongside Mike and Kate with Pat Hall. Both teams finished in seven hours, 13 minutes and had lots of fun along the way.

Our last swimmer in the water this year was Adam Popplow, the “famous breaststroke swimmer”. We are all amazed at how fast Adam is with breaststroke only — in part because of his height. He explained that his knees were already sore at two kms but he finished alongside Jim Shaw in six hours and 50 minutes. These two got the worst of the storm and Jim was shivering by the end. A great swim, fuelled in part by Oreos!

Thank you, crews!

Our crews were drenched to the skin, some shivering as they paddled beside us, seeking shelter for us close to shore during the worst of the weather, and/or being a bright presence to oncoming boaters. We of course cannot do the swim without them — the unsung heroes of the swim. The swimmers applaud each of you and thank you for ythe gift of your time and belief in us.Our behind-the-scenes crew members were also soaked to the skin and we applaud them equally. Caroline Burns records our times, deals with our pre-swim jitters and welcomes us at the end with donation receipts ready to go. My mom Mary Lyn Myles created a beautiful rag quilt and wrapped me in a huge hug at the end. Mom also helps organize the receipts, food for the crew and the small details along with my sister Marjorie Myles-Bilous. Marjorie is also one of our cheerleaders, her voice heard over our breathing to encourage us at the end. Dad, Herb Myles, was a runner boat again this year with Art Hudell carrying messages between swimmers, encouraging us and ensuring the safe exit for those who get out before the end. Nephew James Bilous is there to do what ever needs to be done in his quiet way; packing and unpacking cars, taking down tents, moving picnic tables. Al Scott was also a runner boat this year bringing swimmers to the start with Josh Bang and getting us back to the cottages at the end. Son Dustin accompanied him this year and had huge smiles for all the swimmers during the swim and at the end, even through the rain. Lisa Scott organized lunches for the those that needed it, helped set up the finish area and left the kitchen wonderfully clean to come home to at the cottage. Marica St. Pierre assisted again this year with completing the receipts alongside my mom, Maureen Hall, Sheila and Caroline, having them waiting for the swimmers to distribute. AND Don Popplow records the swim with his digital camera and has the CD waiting for me before I am even back to the cottage.

Donations of apple and orange juice were received again this year from SunPac, care of Peter Nobel and we thank him very much. The juice is just what the swimmers need at the end of the swim. Doug and Marjorie Bilous of Cawthry Bay Store on Lake Simcoe donated all the snacks and ice for the crew and swimmers again this year. The snacks provide the “pick-up” when we are able to get some food in.

We also were very fortunate to have media interest and stories about the swimmers and Swim for the Cure in the Aurora Era-Banner, the Georgetown Inquirer, the Oakville Beaver before and after the swim and an interview broadcasted on CKLP FM News Parry Sound Moose 103.3. A special thank you to Caroline Grech, Lisa , Wilma Blokhuis and Bill Kingston.

Making a difference

Despite the weather it was another very successful year, surpassing my goal of raising $8,000 to help find a cure for breast cancer. I had the pleasure of finishing my own swim in five hours, 20 minutes and swam the last portion of Bonnie Moore’s swim, the last quarter-km of Eric Bang’s swim, and the last two kms of Mark Bang’s swim. The highlight this year for me was the personal best times of Mark, Jennie and Bonnie, watching Debbie Albaum finish the full distance and the determination of new swimmer Tiffany Gillespie. She had no idea what to expect, especially with a young, inexperienced but determined crew of young women to travel with her. Not only did she give it her best, but she made a difference in three young women’s lives through her courage.Making a difference in people’s lives what the Swim For The Cure is all about!