Contending with everything Mother Nature had in store, they discovered the Manicouagan Reservoir – and a lot about themselves.
From July 26 to Aug. 6, 14 young Canadians who have battled cancer gathered for a therapeutic adventure expedition to Quebec’s Manicouagan Reservoir. The trip was facilitated by the On the Tip of the Toes Foundation.
There were participants from Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Alberta, selected by the medical staff of various cancer centres across Canada.
Accompanied by facilitators, a medical team, and local professional guides, the participants faced clouds of flies, wind, rain and waves. Many of the campers were shy at first and there was a language barrier for some to overcome. However, they soon opened up and began sharing with each other.
18-year-old cancer survivor Lucas Singleton of Hantsport was among the participants. He was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer, when he was six.
“I really enjoyed meeting other cancer survivors from across the country,” he said. “If I hadn’t participated in the expedition, I probably would never have met them.”
Singleton said he has camped at campgrounds and in provincial parks but this was his first experience with extended paddling voyages and remote wilderness camping.
The program and activities helped him learn that he could overcome his shyness. He said he would always remember the wonderful people that he shared the adventure with.
“It was easy to connect with the other participants because we had all heard the words, ‘you have cancer’,” Singleton said. “We had all experienced the challenges that come with diagnosis, treatment, long-term side effects and life after cancer. This allowed us to connect and understand one another.”
Madeline Pillipow, a participant from Alberta, said, “Lucas was one of the most supportive people in the group, showing great respect for everyone’s strength and limitations.”
CHALLENGING BUT FUN
Singleton said perhaps the most challenging aspect of the adventure was that it was so physically demanding. The campers paddled voyageur canoes from island to island, often for one to two hours at a time. Singleton said they canoed every day in all conditions.
He said they were given chores at each campsite, such as setting up tents, collecting firewood and building toilets. Once settled in, the campers helped prepare meals and clean up.
For fun, they would fish and swim. At night, they played games around the campfire and sang songs. Singleton said they also had an Olympiad at one of the campsites. Participants were divided into two teams and competed in challenges such as a tug of war between canoes, a race around the island in the canoes, portaging and swimming.
He said he wants to thank the On the Tip of the Toes Foundation for the opportunity, something he would recommend to other young cancer survivors. Singleton described the adventure as “exciting, challenging and fun.”
Lucas’s mom, Shawna Singleton, has only positive things to say about the foundation. When it comes to camps, she said it’s the most organized group she has ever dealt with. They are positive, friendly, and she would highly recommend the experience.
Shawna said Lucas was a little hesitant about the trip at first. However, when he got home, he was “so thrilled that he had gone.”
“He feels he’s grown as a person by participating in the camp,” Shawna said. “That was one of my objectives, to have him overcome some of the fears he might have and gain a little more independence and I think they do a great job of that.”
OPPORTUNITIES TO EXCEL
For more than 20 years, the On the Tip of the Toes Foundation has been organizing therapeutic adventure expeditions to help young people whose lives have been impacted by cancer reach their full potential.
Foundation director Jean-Charles Fortin said these expeditions provide participants with opportunities to excel on many levels.
“Every moment that constitutes this great adventure is thought out and orchestrated to enable young people to achieve their goals,” he said.
Expeditions take place in the heart of some of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada. The trips are free to participants but require significant fundraising efforts.
GO ONLINE: For more information or to donate, visit www.pointedespieds.com.