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Community: Great Big Swim supports Vital Victoria

Spirit Orcas, a group of eight swimmers with intellectual disabilities and Susan Simmons, an ultra-marathon swimmer, embarked on an eight-week 80-kilometre swim on Canada Day.
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Five-year-old Toren Drinnan cycles along a path in Beacon Hill ParkÕs sundial garden, where flowers are gloriously in bloom.

Spirit Orcas, a group of eight swimmers with intellectual disabilities and Susan Simmons, an ultra-marathon swimmer, embarked on an eight-week 80-kilometre swim on Canada Day.

Dubbed the Great Big Swim, the endurance event supports the Victoria Foundation’s Vital Victoria fundraiser, which aims to help local charities endure the effects of the global pandemic.

“It’s our way of staying physically fit and focused during the pandemic,” said Simmons, an athlete with multiple sclerosis who has completed a number of ultra-marathons, including a swim from Port Angeles to Victoria. “It’s also our way of hugging our community by raising money and awareness for the Vital Victoria fund.”

The swim is scheduled to take place over two months on Saturdays and Sundays.

The journey starts at Brentwood Bay, goes around the Saanich Peninsula, past Victoria, across Esquimalt Harbour and ends at Esquimalt Lagoon.

The team will be assisted by a team of expert mariners to help ensure that the athletes start and end their swims at times optimal for speed and safety.

Each stage will be about 10 kilometres,with the start and end points forming a continuous line. The swimmers will be accompanied by a fleet of volunteer kayakers and a small motor craft and sailboat.

The group has already completed two stages, encountering jellyfish and curious harbour seals tickling their toes.

The next stage, from Lands End at West Saanich Road to the Tulista Boat Ramp will start at 10 a.m. and finish at 3 p.m. on July 11. The group is expected to finish their quest at 4 p.m. Aug. 8 on the Colwood waterfront.

Simmons and the Spirit Orcas will be joined by local swimmer Jasmine Kremer.

• For more information, or to follow the swimmers via a Spot tracker, go to

How many trash bags could you fill in 12 hours?

A Victoria resident, tired of seeing trash at the side of the road while commuting, decided to see how much he could pick up in one day.

“I used to work out in Langford and would bike along that highway about three times a week. Seeing all that trash really stuck with me,” said Aaron Dayton. “As soon as I had the idea to pick up trash for a day, I knew that was the location I needed to go to.”

Last weekend, over 12 hours, the 20-year-old managed to fill 28 bags of trash from a two-kilometre stretch of highway beside Thetis Lake.

He had a friend, Owen Brady, accompany him to film and document the undertaking in anticipation of Dayton’s upcoming YouTube channel called Sprouter.

Dayton plans on making environmentally related videos detailing how everyday people can cut down their carbon footprint as well as posing questions about the environment.

Ryan Reynolds to match funds raised for Great Bear Rainforest

Actor Ryan Reynolds has committed to match funds, urging Canadians to Make Him Pay in support of the Great Bear Rainforest. The Vancouver-born star is calling on the public to join him in supporting the protection of the vast area by making a donation to Pacific Wild.

Reynolds has pledged to match funds raised up to $50,000 between now and Aug. 3.

“Providing this gift, this matching challenge is to help raise money for the critical conservation work being done by my friends at Pacific Wild,” said Reynolds. “This is my way to ensure that the rainforests that I grew up with as a kid, are still going to be there, wild, and unique, and in the world for my kids.”

Reynolds was also the narrator in Great Bear Rainforest, a 2019 Imax documentary of a journey to view some of the 1.2 million hectares of the region. Pacific Wild is a conservancy dedicated to defending wildlife and their habitat on the West Coast by developing and implementing solution-based conservation strategies.

• For more information, go to

Easter Seals opening up camp for people with disabilities

Easter Seals is opening up day camp options in Victoria for youth and adults with disabilities.

The City Adventure Day Camp will take place in August with eight weekly sessions. Daily activities include arts and crafts, visit to parks, game days and talent shows.

“The health and safety of the children who attend summer camps is Easter Seals’ top priority,” says Lisa Beck, president and CEO of Easter Seals B.C./Yukon. “It was so disappointing to have to cancel our overnight camps for this year, but we’re hoping these day camps will provide some social interaction and physical activity that they've been missing. Following strict guidelines from the province and health authorities, we've put strict protocols in place to keep all participants, staff and visitors safe.”

Sessions will be in groups of six and overseen by two counsellors. The camps are available to groups from ages 12 to 18 and 19 to 49. Participants can choose one day or as many as they can.

Camp registration is $60 per day, with the remainder of the cost subsidized by donors and sponsors. Participants will meet at the Uptown outdoor mall on Saanich Road each morning before heading out to their activity.

• For more information and to register, go to

Café cooking for another 10,000 meals

The Red Cedar Café served its 10,000th free meal in three months — and launched a campaign to cover the cost of the next 10,000 meals.

The not-for-profit community meal program, founded in April, launched a community fundraising campaign to raise $50,000 — enough for the next three months of operations.

“We are heartened by this tremendous outpouring of community solidarity,” says Liz Maze, community relations co-ordinator.

The fundraising goal is for expenses including rent and utilities for the kitchen and distribution centre, healthy ingredients to supplement donated food and labour costs.

Healthy meals are distributed to seniors, people in self-isolation, the unhoused and other community members in need.

The non-profit was founded in April by hospitality industry professionals and community leaders to respond to the pandemic and associated economic hardship. It serves more than 1,200 meals prepared and distributed by 230 volunteers.

• For more information or to donate, go to

How is your charity faring? Leadership Victoria wants to know for survey

Leadership Victoria is looking to hear from Greater Victoria’s non-profits, registered charities and community-serving organizations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization has created a survey to find out how Victoria’s network of community-serving organizations has managed to navigate the changing leadership climate during the pandemic.

The results of this survey will be used to create leadership-training possibilities for local leaders. They will share the results of this survey with their network.

• The online survey is at

Perogy plates boost Ukrainian Canadian Cultural Centre

The Ukrainian Canadian Cultural Society of Vancouver Island raised more than $3,000 from their first take-out perogy supper fundraiser last weekend.

The funds will go toward an $21,000 bill arising from unexpected repairs to a dishwasher and hot water tank at the society's cultural centre. The next takeout supper won’t be until Sept. 25, but frozen perogies will be available for purchase by July 21. Email to pre-order take-home items, including sausage.

The Ukrainian Canadian Cultural Society of Vancouver Island is a non-profit organization established in 1978 to serve the Ukrainian community in Greater Victoria and Vancouver Island.

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