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Girl, 10, aims to be youngest to swim Northumberland Strait

Karina Warren is training with her father, Ronald, to be the youngest person to swim the Northumberland Strait.
Karina Warren is training with her father, Ronald, to be the youngest person to swim the Northumberland Strait.

TRURO, N.S. — A 10-year-old Truro girl wants to be the youngest person to swim across the Northumberland Strait.

Karina Warren and her father, Ronald, are two of 50 swimmers registered to do the Big Swim Aug. 6, an annual fundraiser where people swim alongside the Confederation Bridge across the Northumberland Strait from Cape Jourimain, N.B., to Borden-Carleton, P.E.I.

As the crow flies that’s 14 km.

“But if you get caught in the current, you could end up swimming 20 km,” says Ronald.

Karina first got the idea in her head a couple of years ago when the family was driving to P.E.I. to visit relatives. It just happened to be the day of the Big Swim. When she saw all the swimmers and their safety boats in the water, she decided then and there she wanted to do it, too.

Karina turns 11 at the end of this month. She swims competitively with the Truro Centurions and holds two club records in the 10 and under category.

The youngest person so far to do the swim is Brooklyn Douthwright of Riverview, N.B., who took part in the Big Swim in 2015 when she was 12.

Before that, Cali Bruce, also of Truro, was 14 when she did the Big Swim in 2014.

Ralph Brooks was the first 14-year-old to swim the Strait in 1964 and he did so without a wet suit.

Todd McDonald, co-founder of Give to Live, the organization behind the Big Swim, says they are thrilled to have Karina participate in this year's big swim.

“While we generally have not had participants this young, we are still open to participants of all ages and skill levels,” said McDonald. “Because of her high skill level, and the support from her father to swim with her, we are confident that Karina will be successful in her first swim and be the youngest to cross. As always, they will be surrounded with a support team of safety officers, lifeguards and kayakers.”

Organizers at the Big Swim asked for a meeting with the Warrens to make sure they knew what they were getting into. They also asked to talk to Karina’s swim coach.

ISLANDER TO SWIM TOO: Ryan Bradley spent his childhood summers at the family cottage in Cumberland on the south shore of P.E.I., dreaming of swimming across the Northumberland Strait. Bradley is set to realize his dream when he participates in the seventh annual Big Swim on Aug. 6. While there are 50 swimmers entered, Bradley says he’s the only Islander. All funds raised this year will again go to Brigadoon Village in Halifax, N.S., which provides camp programming to children, youth and families living with chronic illness, chronic conditions or special needs. The 62 swimmers in last year’s Big Swim raised $148,000 — enough to send 148 kids to camp for a week. This year organizers are hoping to raise $175,000 or enough to send 175 kids to camp. Last year, Brigadoon Village had 531 campers with 12 of those coming from P.E.I.

For more information, go to www.givetolive.ca/the-big-swim/sponsor-s-swimmer/
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The coach, in turn, asked to see how she would make out doing an eight-km swim.

“She and I were neck and neck until the six-k mark,” says Ronald. “And then she must have decided she was going to go for it because she just left me behind. She finished in three hours and 15 minutes and I finished in three hours and 44 minutes.”

Last fall Karina also completed a 14-kilometre swim with no trouble.

Ronald swam a little over the years but didn’t take it up seriously until this winter because his daughter wanted him to accompany her on the crossing.

The father and daughter have been swimming a few days a week at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre all winter and are now focusing on getting used to swimming outside and swimming in a wetsuit.

“The tight suit is restrictive and it can be harder to breathe,” says Ronald.

Big Swim organizers hold several outdoor swims in lakes around Halifax to help people get used to the outdoors, and the Warrens are going to several of those.

They are also planning to train in Little Dyke Lake, N.S.

“This is her dream, she wants to do the Big Swim and she wants to be the youngest person to do it,” says Ronald. “And she wants me to go with her, so I’m going to do everything I can to help her.”

That includes fundraising. The Big Swim raises money for Brigadoon Village, a camp on Aylesford Lake in the Annapolis Valley for Atlantic Canadian children, youth and families living with a chronic illness, chronic condition or special need.

Each swimmer has to raise $1,500 to be able to swim, and the Warrens are both about halfway there by selling chocolate bars, accepting donations and holding a bake and yard sale.

For more information, check out The Big Swim at brigadoonvillage.org/the-big-swim-1 or Camp Brigadoon: brigadoonvillage.org.

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