Why I Give: The VCDS Canoe Race

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“I am very proud of the role the Canadian Armed Forces play in the charitable campaign, and strongly encourage leaders to solicit their personnel to be part of the annual Vice Chief of the Defence Staff Canoe Challenge,” said Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff. “We are committed to supporting the wellbeing of our community by giving back to those who support us. Let’s make this challenge an opportunity to have fun while making a difference.”

In the late summer of 2001, our world was a very different place. The Canadian Public Service was gearing up for its annual charity campaign, and flying anywhere in the world was a relatively easy task.

Then came September 11, and everything changed. As the world watched, hundreds of first responders rushed to save lives, and lost their own. It became obvious that these dedicated individuals needed support.

Using the framework of the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign, the first ever Vice Chief of Defence Staff (VCDS) Canoe Race took place on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa in October 2001. Through a registered Canadian Charity, the funds raised that first year went to support 9/11 first responders.

Since then, the VCDS Canoe Race has raised over $105k. After the first year, all funds raised supported the Defence Team’s contribution to the national campaign. Today, the money raised is linked back to each team’s fundraising efforts.

The Canoe Race brings out the competitive spirit in the Defence Team. With anywhere from 30 to 40 teams, many in costumes and paddling decorated canoes, the spirit of competition and giving is obvious as the canoes battle from Dow’s Lake to the finish line in front of NDHQ at 101 Colonel By Drive.

That spirit of giving is no more present than among the race planning team. For 18 years, Don Neville has been involved in organizing the VCDS Canoe Race. First from within the organization, and then from Military Personnel Command. Don continues to volunteer to organize this event because, he says, “it is a legacy that I truly believe is more than worth the effort, and it brings so much support to people in need”.

Along with Alec Scott and Cheryl Ward, Don has worked hard to organize the event each year, raising its profile and seeking to break that elusive fundraising target of $10k.

This year, they are asking level-one organizations to get their teams together, register early (internal link), fundraise within their teams, and bring their A-game on September 28, as the VCDS Canoe Race plays a key role in the launch event taking place in the National Capital Region.

There will be prizes for the fastest canoe, the best decorated canoe, the best foreign service canoe, the most determined canoe, and most importantly, the most funds raised.

On September 28, come out and enjoy the exciting race, cheer your teams across the finish line, and join us for the National Defence Workplace Charitable Campaign (NDWCC) Launch at the Cartier Square Drill Hall!

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