Islanders paddle towards addiction awareness

Mitch MacDonald
Published on August 23, 2014

Building a community can be a lot like constructing a boat.

And a number of Islanders brought out their toolboxes Saturday as part of a fundraiser for families and youth struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

The first annual Reach Regatta event was held outside of Founder’s Hall and saw nine teams of four construct boats for the fundraising race.

The event saw teams provided with 90 minutes to construct a creation of plywood, nails and duct tape. They later had a race between the teams in the marina, with awards for the top three finishes, fan’s choice and the Titanic award for the first than sank.

“I’m into heritage carpentry but obviously I have a good understanding of tools, carpentry and joiners, so that helped quite a bit,” said Josh Silver, captain of the winning Holland College Hurricanes team. “But mostly, we wanted to just come out and support the cause. The college knows that youth of the Island are an important step for our community and if there’s troubled youth out there, we want to help put them on the right path.”

The event was a fundraiser for the Reach Centre, a non-profit organization in Stratford dedicated to working with youth struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

Organizer Leza Matheson-Wolters said support from the community, both in participants and spectators, was overwhelming.

“Whether you’re building a boat starting from scratch or a community in terms of strength… a lot of families live in isolation from the stigma and pain that they’re dealing. It (addiction recovery) is a long road to travel when you’re alone,” said Matheson-Wolters. “So to have people coming together motivated by wanting to support the health of our youth and community, and to do it in a public way, that is what the Reach Centre is all about.”

Many of the teams included high-profile Islanders.

Mayor Clifford Lee, deputy mayor Stu McFayden and coun. Cecil Villard were members of the city’s “Charlottetown, Great Things Happen Here” team.

The province’s two major political parties also went head to head, with MLA Richard Brown captaining the “Liberal Voyagers” and James Aylward leading the “PC Blue Wave.”

Alan Buchanan, emcee and commodore for the event, said he felt the event went extremely well for the first year.

“I think we were able to generate enough excitement that the teams that were participating will definitely be back next year. We’ll probably aim for 20 teams for next year and see how we do.”

While the afternoon was fun for many of the participants, Buchanan said it also addressed a very serious problem in the province.

“Anything we can do to help out in that regard, and help young people get their lives on track and going in the right direction is a positive thing,” he said. “I was surprised at the amount of people that came down for the race… and next year we’ll have even more.”