A story of inspiration, perseverance and generosity was featured at the Rotary Club’s District 7090 Conference luncheon at the Best Western Brant Park Inn on Saturday.
Fourteen-year-old Norfolk County resident Annaleise Carr – the youngest person to ever swim across Lake Ontario – brought many Rotarians to tears during her speech, which recounted the support she was given during her 52-kilometre, 27-hour swim across the lake in August to raise funds for Camp Trillium.
“Everyone runs into trouble,” Carr said. “Everyone has doubts and everyone gets scared.
“But with the support of family and friends, you can get through even your worst days and maybe even turn them into something amazing.”
Carr was presented a Paul Harris Fellowship Award in front of hundreds of Rotarians by Rotary Club district governor Rick Sterne.
Through her swim and subsequent efforts, Carr has so far raised about $250,000 for Camp Trillium, a summer camp for children suffering from cancer with two locations in the province.
Carr departed from Niagara-on-the-Lake on Aug. 19 and arrived at Marilyn Bell Park in Toronto a little more than a day later. She said her inspiration for the swim came in part from Marilyn Bell, who made the first successful swim across Lake Ontario in 1954 when she was 16 years old.
Carr said there were many obstacles to overcome in conquering the lake.
“During my swim, there were times when I was struggling,” Carr said. “But my crew talked or sang me through it or sent me fundraising updates from land. The singing actually made me swim faster. They made it fun for me.”
But there were times she questioned the judgment of her crew during her gruelling journey.
“At other times, I have to admit, I found it difficult to accept their decisions,” Carr said. “Drinking hemp oil was completely awful, but it helped. I also struggled with seeing Toronto, but not heading directly there.
“I had to accept the crew’s decision, knowing it was in my best interest as they had studied the strong currents and winds coming out of the Humber River and knew what path would be easiest for me to swim against and ultimately reach my goal.”
Carr said she initially set out to raise $30,000 for Camp Trillium, but her goal was quickly surpassed.
“Even when I touched the wall at Marilyn Bell Park, I didn’t expect any of this,” Carr said. “I have been swimming competitively since I was four years old. Someone jokingly said I should swim across Lake Ontario. My sister encouraged me further. It took a month to convince my parents, but I had a great crew and a lot of family support.”