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Paddling across Canada

By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times

Former Camp Couchiching staffers Peter Vooys, left, and Scott Graham will be joining four other outdoor educators on a cross-Canada canoe trip. The group will be raising funds for three outdoor education charities, including the Camp Couchiching Initiative. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Former Camp Couchiching staffers Peter Vooys, left, and Scott Graham will be joining four other outdoor educators on a cross-Canada canoe trip. The group will be raising funds for three outdoor education charities, including the Camp Couchiching Initiative. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Six outdoor educators are going to be practising what they preach next month as they embark on a 5,000-kilometre cross-Canada canoe trip.

“Outdoor education, to us, is a great way to learn. It’s a great way to turn off from modern technology and really connect with where you live,” said 29-year-old Peter Vooys, a former Camp Couchiching staff member and one of the driving forces behind the Paddle Across Canada Tour (PACT).

The group — which, in addition to Vooys, includes Scott Graham (another former Camp Couchiching staff member), James Humpston, Hollye Ervine, Marissa Sieck and Marc Soberano — is fundraising for three outdoor-education charities.

They hope to raise $5,000 in total, which will be split between the Camp Couchiching Initiative in Orillia, Camp Outlook in Kingston and the PINE project in Toronto, and are about halfway to their goal.

“They’re all non-profit organizations that find new ways to take kids outside and get them engaged with their natural world ... at low to no cost,” Vooys said of the outdoor-education charities.

Some children learn primarily through hands-on experiences, he explained, and they don’t always have the opportunity to do so in the classroom.

That’s where the second part comes in.

The group also wants to draw attention to the benefits of outdoor education.

When children have the chance to get their hands dirty, said Vooys, they’re forced to overcome challenges and engage in team-building activities they may not otherwise have been exposed to.

“When you finish these experiences, you’re so much better for it,” he said.

Vooys has never been to Saskatchewan or Manitoba, nor has he been to Lake Superior.

“There’s no better way to see Canada than by canoe,” he said.

He’s looking forward to exploring the country through the lakes and rivers that helped make it what it is today.

The group will be leaving from Rocky Mountain House, Alta., and travelling for four months to Lachine, Que.

“We opted out of dragging our Voyageur canoe over the Rockies,” said Vooys. “That was one thing we had to compromise on.”

North Woods Canoe in Cochrane, Alta., is currently constructing the 24-foot vessel.

This is going to be the longest journey any of the group members have ever made.

The group will be holding an informal fundraiser May 4 at The Brownstone in Orillia that will see local artists play the songs of Stompin’ Tom Connors.

They’ll be accepting donations and raffling prizes before they leave by car May 5 for Alberta to begin their journey.

roberta.bell@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @roberta__bell

 


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