submitted by Rick Hill, Commodore of Greater Edmonton Racing Canoe Kayak Club
In a joint venture, the Greater Edmonton Racing Canoe and Kayak Club and the St Albert Canoe and Kayak Club invited a large group of Syrian Refugees to their Kirk Lake paddling facility which borders the two Cities.
“It was an amazing day in which we have shared the love of canoe kayak sport with Syrian refugees and all Canadians,” said coach Zak Mahmoudi. “Sharing the love of paddling with others is just such a part of everything Canada stands for.”
There were several purposes for this initiative. The clubs wanted to welcome the refugees to the Greater Edmonton area with some fun and have a chance to show Canadian culture. Paddling and outdoor activities in Canada have a deep history and we wanted them to have an opportunity to try paddling in a safe environment.
Understanding that many of them fled by boat from Syria and have a fear of water from that experience, the clubs also wanted to show them how safe and fun canoeing and kayaking can be when done in a CKC club environment.
The Northern Alberta clubs have diverse programs that provide paddling opportunities for everyone so this venture was another opportunity to do some community good.
The paddling event was followed by a picnic and get together. Over 60 participants enjoyed the experience and the organizers were overwhelmed by the public excitement the initiative created.
“The exposure the event has got from the media was totally unexpected,” said Mahmoudi. “Television and media are key ingredient for growing our sport. An event like this will definitely grow the size of our audience to engage more Canadians in the sport, and will also amplify the profile of paddling sport that is so deeply steeped in Canadian heritage.”