Partnerships make Sunset Water Sports event a reality

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

Over the past few weeks, more children were able to enjoy their time on the lake using Sunset Water Sport’s adaptive equipment, thanks to a sponsorship from Fairstone.

Shawna McRitchie and Mar Fraczkiewicz are co-owners of Sunset Water Sports. They both have the goal of making water sports accessible to people with physical disabilities.

The business partners met with Carolyn O’Brien, Fairstone branch manager, and explained to her their mission.

“[Carolyn] thought it was an amazing idea and wanted to sponsor an event,” McRitchie said. “She wanted to see how it went and how it could possibly grow. Fairstone is a very giving organization. They have given a lot to nurses and frontline workers during the pandemic.”

Ten children registered for the event. They had the option to go tubing, use the sit ski and other adaptive water equipment recently donated to them by Child and Family Services.

“We also have a partnership with Children and Family Services,” McRitchie said. “They have been fabulous to us. They have donated skis to us. We do events with them throughout the year, including tubing.”

The event that was supposed to take place over the course of one day ended up being stretched over the month, due to the unpredictable weather conditions. However, even with the piecemeal approach to getting children on the lake and in the water, they were determined to make the most out of the season before the cold weather kicks in.

McRitchie said the more recognition they get through sponsorships and donations, the more curious people get. This ripple effect, McRitchie added, helps them with their fundraising and awareness campaigns.

McRitchie and Fraczkiewicz have also recently been awarded $14,000 by the Moffat Family fund to purchase a trailer in order to install a portable and wheelchair accessible washroom.

Fraczkiewicz has already begun dressing the trailer after having just purchased a used camper from the United States. 

“This was just to save cost,” McRitchie said. “[Fraczkiewicz] has taken everything out of it. He’s actually working to build it and in September the trailer is going to Winnipeg to get a special coating to make it waterproof and make it easier for us to clean. We’re trying to do everything as cost effective as possible because we don’t have a lot of money. We are looking for local sponsors to give us discounted prices for the metal that we require for shelving.”

Sunset Water Sports has also received a $2,000 donation from the Lions Club, a gesture McRichie called heartwarming.

“This is 2000 broken barriers,” McRitchie said. “We are trying to break down barriers and help people. Our job is not done. We still have a lot of work to do.”

This is not the end, McRitchie said, adding that they are hoping to have a non-for-profit status so that they could be eligible for more funding down the road. This will help them offer free programs.

Even though they will not be able to be on the lake during the winter, McRitchie said the cold months will be dedicated to working with the town and town council to make the docking systems more accessible.

“These things cost money and not everybody has that,” McRitchie said. “We are open to any partnerships and anyone who wants to do any sponsorship events. Our goal is to make this program as accessible to everyone at the cheapest cost possible.”

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