Thursday, August 27th, 2009...4:03 pm

CReW 2009 Youth Challenge Wrap Up – An Epic Season

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Tuesday August 25th 2009.
Lamoureux Park – Cornwall, Ontario

On Tuesday evening we gathered all our volunteers and all 4 instructors together along with every boat that we own at the public boat launch at Lamoureux Park in Cornwall Ontario. All we needed were the kids and their parents.
Did they come? Oh yeah.
16 kids came out for one last paddle and to hang one more time with CReW.
We were also joined by a phenomenal showing of parents, uncles, aunts, brothers sisters and grandparents who just wanted to see what all the noise was about.
Tonight we kept the instruction to a minimum and focused on fun and games.

The evening started with the usual pandemonium of kids trying to line up and get geared up. Then we reviewed a few safety items and went over the use of a throw bag (I do not think you can over-do the importance of the bag… Just save one person or get saved once and you will understand and appreciate the lessons learned). Now they were all fidgeting and getting restless…
So time for the paddle game. :) Even the biggest hard head enjoys that and it burns some surplus energy. And…. Onto the water! A few good stretches and reminder about motor boat traffic hazards, a couple warm up stroke and then… time for piano keys!!!!!!!!! Who hoo.
Any time that I mention this I get funny looks… a few comments that sound like “lame”, “silly” and “really…”. But then we get it going. Brake the group into4 groups of 4 (1 group per instructor makes it soo manageable) and then get them to raft up.The person on the end walks across the bow of their fellow rafters… works their way around the end and walks back across the stern then gets back in their boat. Easy? No way.
And…… the laughter starts :) – kids falling everywhere. – Yells, smiles and more importantly, they are pulling together to help get the kid who is moving all the way across and back in the boat! (a little lesson slips in every time. He he) When someone falls, they all work to get the person back in the boat and move to the next person. Loads of fun.
When that was done it was time for stand up paddling. Zachary did the demo.
Nothing quite as hilarious as watching a kid grow and not be aware of the changes occurring. Last year Zachary could do this no problem.. he was little… Now, he is growing and the upper body (though still small) is growing. What does that mean? The center of gravity is changing. And what do we know about gravity? It always pulls you down!!!!! Zach hit the water like a sack of potatoes and all the kids thought it was a hoot.
In no time at all they were all doing that! Loads of laughter, smiles, swimming, occasional success and most important: confidence! Each of them tried, failed, tried and failed but never gave up! That is what I want to see from them and I am soo proud of each one.
Can there be more? Uhuh… they would help each other when they fell over! Sweet!
This evening we cut the on water time to 1.5 hours so we could get them all sorted and have a chat, hand out their certificates and a bit more.

Once we were off the water they slowly dried up and settled down. I had a chance to thank them for doing such great jobs on the water and for making it so much fun for the others and myself to teach them. A special thanks went to their parents and relatives who did an amazing job supporting their kids and encouraging them. Nice! :)

Then we awarded them with their different level of achievement ORCKA awards (From Flatwater A to moving water) and then the surprise.
Thanks to our sponsors and local supporters we were able to round up a selection of cool prizes and we held draw. Everyone left with something that they could enjoy after the program (Sunglasses from Seaspecs, clothing from Jackson, World Kayak and CReW, water shoes, DVDs (LMV, Jackson) stuff from OPG, and stuff from CReW.

Again a lot more smiles. And that is what we shoot for.
Following this we talked briefly with each of the kids and all of their parents and after a few words of encouragement another season comes to an end for the CReW Youth Challenge Program.

Here are a few photos and clips from the evening. CLICK CLICK CLICK Enjoy
(sorry but we are all on the water. Will look at a photo volunteer next year!)

So what did we see this summer?… Huge changes in self confidence – improvements in behavior to each other- an awareness of the water ways and the environment – an improvement in the volunteer spirit (some where early to help unload and others stayed late to help pack up) – new friends – big smiles and the chance for kids to be kids and learn to love a new sport!

Now the planning begins for the 2010 program!!!!

I would just like to thank one more time all the people who make this possible.
The Kids: Really guys, I could not do this if there were no kids and we love you all and thank-you for making this easy to do :) We loved watching you learn, and grow and change through the season.
It was a privilege to teach and play with you all. Thank-you. We hope to see you all next year.
The Parents:
I have said it a lot but I will say it again: The effort you put in to your kids and the positive support that you make now will work in your favor and help to ensure that your kids are outstanding adults and members of the community in the years to come. Well done. Want to hear it again? WELL DONE!!! Thank you for putting your faith in us (your trust means more to me than I can express :) ) and letting your kids play on our rivers.
The Volunteers and instructors:
Sylvie Lebel (My wife and best friend), Cheryl McGregor (Instructor, board member and always there with ideas), Aime-Jean Lavigne (Instructor, good friend and amazing paddler!), Zachary Zwanenburg (Instructor to be, superb assistant and my son), Jennifer Tytula (Club member and volunteer on the water), Kari-Anne (Volunteer for the SD&G Boys And Girls Club) and all the other volunteers from the Boys And Girls Club who came out to help us do this.
Our sponsors and supporters: Jackson Kayaks, Mountain Equipment Coop, Ontario Power Generation, H2O Performance Paddles, Level 6, World Kayak, Alexandria Moulding, The SD&G Boys And Girls Club, The Alexandria Youth Center, Adventure Sports Access Group, and CReW (I really hope I did not forget anyone….)

This year, we reached over 40 kids during the summer. From the main branch of the program in Cornwall to the short but successful offshoots into Alexandria.

We are looking forward to bringing more kids and kayaks together on the river next year.

Until then, Play hard, Play Safe and always have fun!

See you on the river somewhere soon,

Robert Zwanenburg
www.cornwallwhitewater.com

(PS: National Children’s Day will be celebrated with 2 pool sessions for local kids in Cornwall on November 22nd and November 23rd. See you there!)

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