WELLAND, Ontario – It started as a simple idea to raise money in honor of two friends lost to cancer. Now, five years later, the On Board paddling event launched by Madeline Leblanc returns to the Welland Recreational Canal Sunday, July 21. Leblanc, 22, first fell in love with the sport of stand up paddleboarding at the age of 10 and bought her first board in 2012. Two years later, she launched the On Board event in memory of her two friends who had died of cancer - Julia Turner, who died at the age of 15 and Lynn Lambert, who died at 37.
“They were two wonderful people who deserve to be remembered because of the legacies they left on the City of Welland,” says Leblanc. “They were always giving back to others in the community and putting others needs before theirs. They taught Welland to treasure every moment of life, and dedicate yourself to helping others when you can.”
The first On Board was on July 10, 2014, when Leblanc paddled 10km in just over two hours to raise awareness and more than $4,000 for brain cancer research.
“Creating On Board was my way of saying goodbye to Julia and Lynn and a way to giving back to the cancer community,” Leblanc says.
The impact that first event left on Leblanc has driven her to run it year after year, raising more than $30,000 in its first five years. For the sixth edition this July, Leblanc will honor Dalton Jacques and McKenna Modler at the event.
On Board 2018. | Photos: Anthony Gallaccio
“Dalton was another young member of the Welland community who passed away too soon due to cancer in March 2016 and McKenna is a 18-year-old girl from Gananoque who still continues to fight brain cancer through her own fundraiser called ‘McKenna’s Dream,’” says Leblanc.
The 2019 On Board event will start at 10am on Sunday, July 21 from the Welland Community Boathouse located at the end of Thorold Road East in Welland. The morning portion of the event will feature SUP races hosted by the Ontario SUP Series. Registration can be found on the Ontario SUP Series website. In the afternoon, Leblanc and the rest of the paddlers will paddle to the Lincoln Street Bridge, then turn around and head back to the start. The journey is expected to take between one and two hours, depending on paddling experience.
Last year more than 200 people including 89 paddlers took part and Leblanc is hoping to see that number increase for Year 6.
Anyone from beginners to expert paddlers are encouraged to join her on the canal to remember Lynn, Julia, Dalton and McKenna. Those who are interested in paddling must contact Madeline through her website or Facebook. There is no registration fee or age limit, however Madeline would like those who want to paddle to wear a 2019 On Board shirt which can be ordered in advanced on her website.
Paddlers will meet at 9 a.m. where they are encouraged to first register, then bring a kayak, canoe, or SUP board as well as a personal flotation device such as a lifejacket. To pre-register online, visit Madeline’s website. There will also be limited boards available to rent provided by Fearless Females and Starboard SUP North America.
On Board 2018. | Photo: Anthony Gallaccio
Throughout the day, Lululemon Niagara will also be hosting yoga on the shoreline for anyone who would like to relax and stretch. There will be a free BBQ sponsored by Mr. Mikes Welland, along with extra On Board T-shirts on sale for $25.
After the paddle, participates are welcomed to grab lunch, take photos, swim and socialize. This event is a great way to get some exercise while trying something new! At the end of the day, participants are welcomed to come back to Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Casual for dinner and entertainment provided by Rob Repovs and Isaac Leblanc.
Those who do not want to paddle are welcomed to come to the canal to watch and enjoy a fun summer day. Donations will be accepted by cash or cheque made out to Canadian Cancer Society, or directly online through the Canadian Cancer Society website here.
Returning sponsors are Impact Promotions Niagara, Miss Dars School of Dance, Surf the Greats, Paddle Niagara, Wappa Paddleboards, WhaSUP, Surf Ontario, Vesuvius Canada, Jake’s Landscaping, Serianni Construction, Starboard SUP, Precision Roofing, Timberline Landscape Contractors, Infinity SUP Canada, Ontario SUP Series, Lululemon Niagara, and Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Casual Welland. New sponsors include Westpier Port Colborne.
The fundraising goal for this year is $12,000, so come on out on Sunday, July 21 to honour four wonderful people by paddling and having fun. GET ON BOARD!
For more information and to register, click HERE.