The water is calm and the surrounding nature is beautiful as some 50 families float down the Grand River.
It’s not your typical school fundraiser and perhaps because of that, the Breslau Public School’s annual Canoeing the Grand night has become a real hit.
Each spring for the past four years, upwards of 150 participants have hopped in canoes at the Otterbein launch south of Breslau and made their way down the seven-kilometre stretch to the Canoeing the Grand headquarters, located at the south end of the King Street Bridge in Kitchener.
It’s become a tradition that students and their parents really look forward to, Breslau principal Sharlene McHolm said.
“It’s quite a lovely ride because it’s short, which is good if you’re a novice, and it’s beautiful scenery. I think that many of the locals, until they’re in the boat, they don’t realize that this is in their own backyard. It’s a great setting for our kids because they are literally paddling by some of their own properties or their neighbours’ homes, and that’s really exciting for them.”
The event began after a conversation between former principal Frank Ewald and the Courtney family, owners of Canoeing the Grand who have twins that attend the school.
“We thought, ‘wouldn’t this be a lovely thing to try?’” McHolm recalled. “And it’s been a big success. It’s become a real tradition here where we look forward to the nice weather and the opportunity to just have a context outside of the school where people can be relaxed and have fun.”
It’s a great way for families to socialize and get to know one another, she added.
“I think all families are looking for opportunities to connect with their communities and this is just a lovely way of doing something that is accessible to all talent and skill levels and it brings people together. At the end of the two-hour or so paddle of varying speeds, for some people it’s quicker and for others it might take a bit more time, we have the camaraderie of a barbeque so people are able to connect on a personal level and it’s such a healthy way to find that connection within the community.”
She continued, “It’s the kind of event that sort of gently makes people calmer. We’re always moving so fast, and this is one of those pieces where you’re in nature and you’re in your own backyard. How else will our children learn about the importance of our watershed without exposure to those types of activities?”
Canoeing on the Grand’s office manager, Ned Courtney is the father of Breslau PS Grade 5 students Elliot and Danielle. He has enjoyed the partnership with the school.
“People keep coming back year after year, so it seems they are really enjoying the experience. It’s just a nice outing. It’s in the evenings, so hopefully it’s a bit cooler, and it’s just enough for young families.”
The event takes place on Wednesday, with paddlers meeting at the Canoeing on the Grand parking lot at 3734 King St. E. at 4:30 p.m. Participants will be shuttled up to the Otterbein launch area, before paddling down the 7-kilometre route-the shortest and safest offered by Canoeing the Grand, with an average water depth of just 3’- back to Canoeing the Grand’s Freeport office and parking area, where there will be a barbeque at 7 p.m.