For the last 39 years, members of the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club have paddled and fundraised for Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan. For the first 27 years of this amazing event the Club paddled (or attempted to paddle) to Port Angeles and back each year. This paddle took between 10-12 long arduous hours depending on the wind and sea conditions. When they were unable to paddle to Port Angeles any longer the event was switched to a Peninsula Paddle. This new route was a 75km journey from Brentwood Bay to their clubhouse on the Gorge.
In the early years, the fundraising voyageur trip was known as the Timmy's Telethon Paddle. The paddle was also timed (depending on the winds) to coincide with the 24-hour spring Timmy’s Telethon. On years when the crossing was on the day of the Telethon, paddlers would hustle up from the Victoria harbour side to the MacPherson Theatre where the Victoria Telethon was being televised. A symbolic cheque for all the money raised was handed over to the host of the telethon by the salt-water soaked and PFD-clad paddlers.
The first year consisted of a single 25-foot voyageur canoe with two crews of six paddlers. One crew paddled from the Esquimalt Angler’s ramp at Fleming Beach to Port Angeles, while the other paddled back to Inner Harbour. The trip took 10 hours and raised $2000!
From the second year on, the Club began to use between two and four voyageur canoes to cross the 32 kilometres of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The second crew would travel on the naval support ship and the teams switched every one and a half to two hours. The paddle took at least four hours, usually more, and it happened in winds that could quickly turn a flatwater crossing into a wave-tossed endurance test.
On years when the weather forecast was too bad to try and cross over to Port Angeles, the canoes paddled up and down the Gorge Waterway for hours until the same distance as the crossing had been covered. This happened four times in the 27 years the paddle route was across the strait.
In 2009, the Navy was unable to provide an escort ship to shadow the canoes across the Strait. Don was able to secure some private escort boats to go to Port Angeles with them but the trip had to be cancelled because the sea conditions were too rough. That year they paddled up and down the Gorge Waterway.
Moving forward, it was determined that a new route was needed. Alan and Linda researched all the locations on the Peninsula with water access, land-able shoreline and adequate road access for a school bus to transport the shifts to each point. In the end, a paddle from Brentwood Bay around the Sanich Peninsula to the Clubhouse on the Gorge was chosen as being the same length as the crossing to Port Angeles, and was safe and logistically manageable.
The Victoria Marine Rescue Society also agreed to start providing their rescue boat as an escort. Paddle for the Kids would like to recognize the wonderful support of the Navy and the Victoria Marine Rescue Society for their safe guidance over the years.
The timing of the Paddle happens each year around Easter – early enough in the year that most paddlers would not be doing their own trips, and late enough to allow the paddlers five or six weeks of practice trips in February/March to get into shape and become familiar with ocean paddling.
Although the event involves paddling in some of the coldest months of the year, practicing has become a highlight of the year for many Club members. Different routes are planned for every practice trip, gradually increasing in length and difficulty. Over the years, they have taken place in on almost all the coastline between Sooke and Nanaimo, including visits to Saltspring, Thetis and Kuper (now Penelakut) Islands.
In the 1990s, a voyageur canoe from Glenlyon Norfold School took part in two of the crossings. They were led by Rick Lidstone and included 10 pupils and four teachers.
SFU also made up a team in 1990 to celebrate their 25th anniversary. They came back in 1991 in the paddle to Port Angeles.
Dragon boat paddlers from Portland have also been regular participants.
Since 1982, Paddle For The Kids has raised well over $370,000, and now brings in between $15 - $20,000 each year.
In past years, there have been fun fundraisers like these: