Soldier On Event at Caddy Lake
The Caddy Lake Resort sign boasts, “the wanderer’s paradise,” gazing upon the lake’s placid waters on a hot, sun-splashed summer’s day, one must agree with that phrase.
At one point, as kayakers paddled into shore, a young black bear was spotted prowling amidst some scrawny pine and balsam trees on the adjacent high rocky outcrop.
Ah, the rugged Precambrian shield. Call it boreal bliss, except for the masses of mosquitoes and biting flies, all of which attacked exposed skin that wasn’t sprayed with bug repellant.
The resort, located about 165 kilometres east of Winnipeg, hosted a four day long hike, bike and kayak event sponsored by Soldier On.
The event, held June 20-23, was organized by Dan Whittaker, Regional Coordinator MB/SK/NW Ontario Soldier On. The Voxair reporter spent some time with the group on June 23.
Soldier On is a program of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) which contributes to the recovery of ill and injured CAF members and veterans by providing opportunities and resources through sport, recreational, and creative activities, says the Soldier On website.
Soldier On is recognized for improving the quality of life of the ill and injured and is a highly visible and integral component of the Department of National Defence, and the CAF’s commitment to the care of ill and injured members. Generous Canadians support the program through donations and fundraising to the Soldier On Fund, which is managed by Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services.
Since 2007, Soldier On has supported over 8800 ill and injured members using sport and physical recreational activities to enable social support, build confidence in their abilities and realize their full potential, says the online information.
“For me, I just like being outdoors,” Captain Bettina McCulloch-Drake said moments after she had dragged her kayak up onto the sandy shore.
“This was a great opportunity to do what I enjoy. I love hiking. It’s been over eight years since I was last in a kayak. It’s very relaxing and refreshing, but you need to have sunscreen on.”
She added that on multi-day events like this you get the chance to talk with and get to know other Soldier On members.
“You have nothing to prove at these events,” Capt McCulloch-Drake added.
“You go as long or as slow as you wish, and as long as your body and mind allows you to.
Nobody is going to judge you. It’s a chance to share stories and just enjoy the activities, and even try something new. Doing things you initially thought you couldn’t.”
Captain Corey Smith, who works with the Transition Unit at CFB Shilo, confessed that she’s struggled with some physical health issues to the extent where she could hardly walk.
“So, this is basically me proving to myself what my body could still do, and mentally what I’m capable of doing,” she said.
“It’s really peaceful and serene. So, it’s a good place for overcoming some of the things that I limited myself from doing before. This is stuff we can all really enjoy. I’ll take this over an office any day.”
“There are so many people who could benefit from this,” Capt Smith stressed.
“There’s a huge community that could benefit from it, and be with other folks who are going through similar situations, especially as you’re transitioning out of the forces. It really opens up your eyes to see new ideas and activities. It helps prepare you for different things.”
Mr. Whittaker emphasized that Soldier On runs introductory level activities—recreation, sporting, and creative activities. We do this for our Canadian Armed Forces members both ill and injured, serving and non-serving,” he said. We do it to assist them in finding that activity, sport or recreational activity that will help them along the road to their recovery. So, we introduce different sports to them to help them find that activity that will help them, and enable them to do it for the rest of their lives in order to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.” He also said that the kayak instructor was Mr. Dave Fraser, owner of Sunset Diving in Kenora, Ontario, and a retired Lieutenant- Colonel from 38 Brigade Group.
“He was very eager to come out and help with this event,” Mr. Whittaker said.
Meanwhile, Scott Green, owner of Green Adventures in Kenora was hosting the kayaking event, he added.
Tim Coffin, Executive Director of Trails Manitoba assisted with the hiking and mountain biking; while bike specialist Warrant Officer John Scott, from 17 Wing, went over every single bike, he added.
“He fine-tuned the bikes so that they would be in good working order,” Mr. Whittaker said, noting that a medic from 23 Health Services was on site, too. “All the events we do for Soldier On cost the members absolutely nothing. All the funds that are donated pay for all of our events, and cover all the (associated) costs.”
For further information visit the Solider On website: www.soldieron.ca
Office telephone: (204) 833-2500 ext. 4918