‘Canoe-a-thon’ team arrives safe and sound

With the sun shining and the waters of the river calm, seven canoes filled with 15 people arrived at Rainy River yesterday afternoon, wrapping up the last leg of the United Native Friendship Centre’s four-day “canoe-a-thon.”^“We arrived at 1 p.m. We were a little late actually. We weren’t paddling that hard—we were a little beat,” R.J. Comeau, a Health and Wellness Youth Intervention worker and head organizer of this year’s “canoe-a-thon,” said this morning.
While he noted the weather generally was conducive to their journey by water, the end-point was a welcome sight.
“There were a few people waiting for us. The Legion cooked us lunch, which was really appreciated,” noted Comeau. “And the president of the Chamber of Commerce [Crystal Lindall] and the mayor [Gord Prost] came out to meet us.”^The toughest day of the trek— which started from the McIrvine boat launch here around 7:30 a.m. Monday—was Wednesday.
“Early on, we had waves, whitecaps, for a while,” Comeau said.
“We probably spent half the day not paddling at all [fighting against the strong waters], and then we realized we were way behind schedule so we had to go on.”^He added some shifting of canoe-mates was in order in to keep at least one strong paddler in each vessel.
“We ended up [in Pinewood] around 7 p.m.”^During that difficult stretch, the canoeists (consisting of Comeau, Erin McMahon, Danielle Shine, UNFC board member Doug Fairbanks, Dan Bone, Tyler Starling, Kristopher Starling, Brad Lowes, B.J. Wilson, James Grozelle, John Seymour, Len Bird, Chelsey Armstrong, Levi Kwan-dibens, and Jen Cawston) were cheered on by a handful of riverside residents.
Ultimately, they were met by Fr. James Panikulam of Our Lady of the Way Church when they arrived in Pinewood.
As reported in Wednesday’s Times, the group did have its share of troubles early on in the trek. First, Erin McMahon, who had some minor backaches Sunday (the day before the canoeists left) had to sit out Tuesday after Monday’s gruelling 10-hour paddle proved too much for her.
Then Brock Parisien, who was sporting sore ribs before he left Monday, also took Tuesday off after getting checked out at the Emo Health Centre at the end of day one.
But upon recommendation of medical staff there, Parisien, along with his canoeing partner, Jenna Malyk, opted to bow out of the journey for good.
However, Fort Frances resident Danielle Shine then joined the group Tuesday after attending the greeting party for the participants Monday in Emo, only to find out McMahon was hurt.
She took her spot in Comeau’s canoe Tuesday.
After taking Tuesday off, McMahon agreed to move on with the rest of the group and rode with Shine and Comeau.
The third-annual “canoe-a-thon” was in support of the UNFC’s Urban Multicultural Aboriginal Youth Centre, Li’l Eagles program, and the OPP Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program.
While the money still is being counted, the preliminary fundraising total was around $1,500.