The FIN-Demics paddled the waters off Willows Beach to raise funds for Island Kids Cancer Association (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

Paddle for Health goes with ‘bubble’ approach to raise funds for Island families battling childhood cancer

The annual fundraiser shifts due to the COVID-19 pandemic

“Bubbles” of friends and family are finding innovative ways to partake in the annual Paddle for Health fundraiser this year to ensure children with cancer continue to receive support despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, which has been running since 2014, usually draws a group of about 100 paddlers to Oak Bay’s Willows Beach where friends and family cheer them on and connect with fellow community members who have also been affected by childhood cancer.

For the past few years, the fundraiser has raised close to $25,000, with all the donations going to Island Kids Cancer Association.

Despite gathering limitations on this year’s event, Island Kids Cancer Association founder and executive director, Susan Kerr, and Paddle for Health event founder, Don Lowther, said they have decided to stick with their fundraising goal of $25,000.

Instead of one big event though, they are relying on individual groups, or “bubbles” to register and raise funds in creative ways. As incentive, there is a “Best Team Costume Award”.

Mock rock band, the FIN-Demics, – normally known as the Willows Beach Paddlers – is one of four groups that have registered for the event so far and are the first to have taken to the water.

Saturday morning (Sept.19), the three-person “band” donned their rock and roll outfits, mounted their paddle boards and glided around the Willows Beach waters, delighting early-morning dog walkers.

Lowther said he hopes a combination of these fun displays and spreading awareness on social media helps them to raise their goal. He was motivated to start the annual event after his mother passed away from cancer in 2005.

For Kerr, whose son passed away from cancer in 2019, the event is just as much about bringing people together as it is about raising money. Usually, she said, the event is filled with handshakes, hugs, tears and laughter as people share their stories and connect.

“The impact that childhood cancer has on a family is immense and seeing the community come together for a cause that your family has been battling with is so heart warming,” she said.

As with many non-profits, Island Kids Cancer Association has experienced a difficult drop in donations since the start of the pandemic.

At the same time, Kerr said, the need for support for families facing childhood cancer has only gone up. Loss of household income and deteriorating mental health have compounded into very difficult situations for many families.

As of Sept.22, this year’s Paddle for Health fundraiser has raised $10,540 of its $25,000 goal. Fundraising teams are still welcome to register and anyone interested in making a donation can do so up until Sept.30.

More information on the event can be found on the Paddle for Health donation page.


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

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