The 10th anniversary of Rotaract’s ‘Up the Creek Without a PADDLE’ fundraiser shattered its fundraising goal, raising a record high $40,315 more than doubling last year’s total.
Huddled together in a dragon boat on North Bay’s Trout Lake, with nothing more than their cell phones to help bail them out, local dignities texted or called friends to raise enough pledges to ‘purchase a paddle’ to get back to shore.
PADDLE co-ordinator for the Rotaract Club of North Bay-Nipissing, Megan Durocher, is proud of everyone who made the event an overwhelming success.
“Everyone has gone over and above our expectations. Last year we raised $20,000. Over the past ten years, we’ve raised over $160,000 for the PADDLE program.”
Adults attending PADDLE (Providing Adults with Developmental Disabilities Life Long Experiences) must be at least 21 years of age.
“If you have a developmental disability in Ontario the mandated school services end at 21 no matter how complex your needs are. What happened 10 years ago, was many people were graduating from the system and there was no where to go, particularly if you had complex needs,” explained Megan Johnson, executive director of the PADDLE program.
“So we’re talking about people with developmental issues, maybe coupled with physical disabilities and mental health designations as well. So a very complex group of people who may not be going into employment support programs and needed somewhere to go to belong, meet other people and learn how they can contribute to their own community.”
Recreation, academics, life skills and volunteerism are all core components of the program.
Money raised makes PADDLE attainable for all interested participants, so that no one is turned away due to lack of funds.
This year money raised is more important than ever. PADDLE finds itself in a position where it must vacate its current location at Chippewa Intermediate and Secondary school, and find somewhere new to set up shop.
"The reason why we’re leaving Chippewa is not our choice. We would have loved to stay with the Near North School. Unfortunately, due to school closures, there’s no longer space in the school for a program like ours," said Johnson.
"They need the space for their students. So our last official day is August 31st. We are currently in negotiations with another location, and we are hoping it will be positive.”
In the meantime, PADDLE members continue to have a positive experience at the fundraising event, enjoying a day at the beach, cheering on people stranded in the boat, while getting reacquainted with old friends.
“Rain or shine, we bring the party every year. What I really love is that for the most part, our guys in the group are somewhere between the ages of 22 and 40, which is the same as the people in Rotaract. So it’s nice to see a peer group that maybe wouldn’t be hanging out together on a regular basis, coming together and making sure both of them have a better quality of life.”
Jesse Nadeau enjoys the time he spends with friends through PADDLE.
“It’s good for me. I get to hang out with my friends. We go shopping and we learn to make lunch. I have been in the boat twice, it’s nice.”
Twin brother James enjoys the field trips.
“We were in Toronto and it was just amazing. We saw the aquarium and we went to the Eaton’s Centre. It’s huge. We all have fun together. This is the best program I’ve ever been to now. ”
The program’s executive director had nothing but praise for the Rotaract club.
“The commitment level of these young individuals is outstanding. It’s unprecedented in terms of our group. This group is committed to us year after year and really understands the program and takes an interest in it, and feels it’s a real important part of our community. It's amazing. They have made such an incredible difference in the lives of everybody who has been a part of PADDLE.”