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Camps to benefit from cross-Canada journey

Ross McIntyre

Everyone has heard tales of that friend of a friend, that one great-uncle (twice removed) or that former co-worker who was just gone one day and left to explore the great unknown.

These adventures are sometimes to the Amazon to tame ocelots, the North Pole to ride on the back of narwhals or, closer to home, northern B.C. to finally befriend of the illusive Bigfoot.

The folks who undertake these adventures are part of our modern mythology of exploration and adventure and their stories fascinate us for one of two reasons: we wish we could be a part of it or we are thankful to be safe at home.

Hollywood has also made its fair share of contributions to the way we view adventure, with movies like White Squall, Homeward Bound, Stand By Me and, of course, the Robin Williams classic Jumanji, where a board game comes to life and brings with it a host of adventure. The tagline for the movie asks, “Are you game?”

The answer to this question for six ambitious paddlers is a definite “Yes!”

The Paddle Across Canada Tour (PACT) is striking out from Rocky Mountain House, Alta., in May and will travel for four months across our vast nation and end in Lachine, Que. Some are surprised to discover this is even possible, but, historically, travelling the interconnected waterways of Canada was how much of our country was discovered.

The team of six paddlers all have roots in outdoor experiential education, camping and the outdoors. The group also has a strong interest in the historical significance of their chosen route, which is why they will be travelling all in one vessel — a traditional 24-foot Voyageur canoe.

The six-member team of PACT is embarking on a journey of a lifetime this May, but they are also infusing this voyage with meaning.

A portion of all of the national fundraising efforts will go to support the following three organizations that offer camp and experiential education opportunities to youth in non-traditional settings: Camp Outlook in Kingston, the P.I.N.E. project in Toronto and Orillia’s own Couchiching Community Initiative. Two of the cross-Canada paddlers are also staff alumni of Camp Couchiching’s Outdoor Education Centre.

Scott Graham, one of the driving forces behind PACT, said the group had two main reasons for starting the voyage.

“Firstly, we wanted to do something big,” said Graham. “We all love tripping and the outdoors, so we wanted to do this at the time when we were all at a point in our lives where it was possible. Secondly, we wanted it to benefit the non-profit organizations we’ve identified. (The PACT team) all met at camps and we wouldn’t be the people we are today without those experiences. This is why it was important to make providing these experiences to youth part of PACT's focus.”

Like any good adventure, there are always obstacles to overcome.

“There will be some challenges,” added Graham. “The larger lakes will be tricky and finding good camping spots may also be a challenge.”

When travelling in an isolated area with a small group of people, considerations also need to be made for everyone’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.

“We will basically be six people in a little community and everyone will have their ups and downs,” said Graham. “This is also one of the best parts about a trip like this, though. It can be a very positive and reflective period of growth.”

When asked about the outcomes after the trip, Graham said, “We want PACT to have a positive influence on awareness of outdoor education and camping, and we are also planning for PACT to continue in new ways after this trip wraps up in September.”

Considering PACT has found a way to combine adventure and creating social value locally, it is easy for us to join team in support of its mission.

To continue reading the tale of this adventure, including updates along the way, visit the PACT website at paddleacrosscanadatour.org. From there, you can also make a financial contribution to support the truly historic and meaningful adventure that is PACT.

Ross McIntyre is a director at Camp Couchiching and the Couchiching Community Initiative. He is passionate about outdoor education and community building. This column profiles community organizations dedicated to Orillia and opportunities for local youth engagement. If you have a story idea, email rossmcinty@gmail.com.


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