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Another record setting year for "Up the Creek Without a PADDLE" fundraiser

'This is one of the biggest fundraisers we do. This is our 11th year and we’re very proud to be supporting PADDLE' Megan Durocher Rotaract PADDLE coordinator “When we come here and see how happy it makes everyone, it makes us feel really good.”

People left drifting in a canoe on North Bay`s Trout Lake were calling for help to get paddles to get them back to shore Friday afternoon.

But they were not in any danger.

They were participants in the 11th annual ``Up the Creek Without a PADDLE” fundraiser for the PADDLE program (Providing Adults with Developmental Disabilities Lifelong Experiences) organized by the Rotaract Club of North Bay.

Sitting in a dragon boat, the community volunteers went through their contact lists, calling friends, family and co-workers collecting pledges to raise money to “buy PADDLES” to get back to shore.

This year’s event raised a record setting $42,695.

The announcement drew loud and enthusiastic cheers from PADDLE participants, their caregivers and Rotaract volunteers who had gathered at Olmsted Beach to support the initiative.

Over the past 11 years the event has raised nearly $200,000 for the organization.

"This is one of the biggest fundraisers we do, this is our 11th year and we are very proud to be supporting PADDLE,” said Megan Durocher Rotaract PADDLE coordinator.

“When we come here and see how happy it makes everyone, it makes us feel really good.”

Without any government funding, all money raised helps to offset operating costs.

“PADDLE is for anyone 21 and over with a developmental disability,” said Megan Johnson executive director.

There are currently 32 participants in the program which runs Monday to Friday with full and part-time options available.

The not for profit organization relies on community donations, grants and fees paid by the participants.

“The individuals pay a small fee to attend. It is approximately $21 a day so it is a good price for what they get. The program is based on life skills, recreation, community involvement, volunteerism, and some academics,” said Johnson.

“It really encompasses a full, holistic, wellness type of programming that will help people get to where they want to get to in life.”   

Thirty-two-year-old PADDLE participant James Nadeau says the program is “awesome.”          

“We cook, and we have lots of friends. I like to swim in the lake and hopefully, the weather is nice. It is all good.”

Tasha Richardson is another PADDLE participant who also enjoys spending time with her friends and learning to play her ukulele.

PADDLE intern Jamie Ward-Bellehumeur and PADDLE participant Lori Fulford kicked off their shoes to feel the cool water on their feet.

“It is like coming home to your family. It is not like a job at all. It is just fun to be at. It is fun to hang out with all your friends, who you consider family at the end of the day,” said Ward-Bellehumeur.

Among this year’s fundraisers were Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, Steve and Adam Venasse, and Ted Thomson.

As has happened in the past, rain began to fall just as the event was about to start.          

“We’ve stopped worrying about the forecast because we know PADDLE brings the party. We know these guys bring the party wherever they go,” laughed PADDLE’s executive director.