Our Mighty Mite becomes Ontario’s Lady of the Lake

By MPP Toby Barrett

“I think it’s so great we have a new Lady of the Lake.” ~ Marilyn Bell

Over the years, I have met so many wonderful people who give tirelessly and believe in their community. But every once in a while I meet someone who stands head and shoulders — even at four foot ten — above the rest.

This Spring I had the opportunity to have lunch with Annaleise Carr. The 14-year-old was just finishing up as a Legislative Page and we talked a great deal of ‘Annaleise’s Radical Crossing’ of Lake Ontario. Although the conversation was filled with excitement, I don’t believe either of us fathomed the impact her world record attempt would have on people.

Earlier, by way of a statement, I had informed members of the Ontario Legislature of Annaleise’s plan to become the youngest person to swim Lake Ontario. She received a standing ovation from all MPPs present – something that very rarely happens in the House. That day she turned in a very nice blog on her website: http://annaleiseslakeontariocrossing.weebly.com/1/post/2012/05/uniting-political-parties.html

With her megawatt smile and soft voice Annaleise continued to reiterate to me that she believed she could make the swim because she had such a great team and supportive family behind her. Even at her Monday news conference Annaleise motioned to her crew of volunteers and said: “I couldn’t have done anything right from the beginning without all these people.”

After two weeks of watching athletes break down in tears of happiness or sadness at the Summer Olympics, Annaleise is a reminder that a world-class athlete need not have a gold medal around his or her neck, although she has broken a world record. Annaleise is a hero in its purest form. Just ask all the little ones battling childhood cancer who will be able to spend time at Camp Trillium – a place where they can forget about being the cancer kid.

It was a visit to Camp Trillium Rainbow Lake that inspired Annaleise to inquire about volunteering. When she was told she was not old enough, instead of walking away, Annaleise found her own way to circumvent the bureaucratic red tape, and as they say, took lemons and made lemonade. While Annaleise’s goal was to raise $30,000, we all know that she shattered that goal and as of press time donations were at $141,000 and are expected to hit $150,000. Donate at: https://secure.camptrillium.com/fundraising/donatorInfo.php

There were a few times during the swim, especially in the cold dark of night when the waves grew taller than her, that Annaleise said she felt like getting out of the water but the very thought of the kids she was swimming for urged her on.

It’s no surprise this young lady was the valedictorian at Walsh Public School. In her speech she reminded her classmates of all the things they should be thankful for and encouraged them to “take this opportunity to write an unforgettable chapter filled with the fulfillment of your dreams and desires. Let us build on our experiences here at Walsh to better ourselves and others around us. There is a lot of power inside of us waiting to be unleashed.”

And as she foretold, in a few short weeks Annaleise would go on to be known as a role model to all ages – and in my view, ‘Canada’s Sweetheart’.