A tale of courage, compassion and hard work

By MPP Toby Barrett

“Never, never, never, never give up –
Winston Churchill

That early morning as we waited on the Port Dover pier for Annaleise Carr’s flotilla to arrive, I had a conversation with two commercial boat captains.

Their opinion was, drawing on decades of Lake Erie experience, given the wind, waves, and the current at the time, it would be impossible for anyone to swim past ‘the point’ – let alone anyone who had been in the water since Pennsylvania. And why do it anyway, having just broken several records by crossing Lake Erie?

The next day we found out Annaleise will continue from Long Point to Dover, “I want to do it for the kids at Camp Trillium and finish it for all them to show to never give up and just keep going.”

The story of Annaleise is one of self-discipline, fortitude and perseverance coupled with a healthy measure of compassion and courage – traits some consider corny or old-fashioned, but they enable someone like Annaleise to set world records.

In her book, Annaleise Carr – How I Conquered Lake Ontario to Help Kids Battling Cancer, Annaleise describes getting through the swim by reflecting on her days as a page in the Ontario Legislature, and by rehashing her Grade 8 valedictorian speech. The speech began with a quote from Dr. Seuss, “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose” and concluded, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”

Endless hours in the pool does require self-discipline. One is one’s own coach, one’s own trainer and disciplinarian. It lies at the heart of successful behavior.

As witnessed, by giving herself a greater challenge of crossing Lake Erie to Port Dover, rather than a much shorter route, she not only excelled beyond the wind and waves, but set that example for kids at Trillium. Those of us on the pier at 5:30 a.m. just assumed ‘mission accomplished’ and records set. We underestimated Annaleise.

Swimming a lake or winning a Stanley Cup requires years of hard work – a virtue that has built our successful society and way of life.

The courageous behavior of Annaleise and her team by taking calculated risks without being reckless, to advance or retreat as good judgment dictates, is infectious.

Compassion for children with cancer is the heart of moral awareness.

“I had cancer when I was only 2-years old,” said Simcoe MY FM reporter and Annaleise spokesperson Aaron Gautreau. “I did not have a camp like this to go to growing up and as a child I was always different. If I had a camp like this to go to it would have meant the world to me – not being questioned why are you bald, why do you look different, why do you walk funny. To come to a camp where I was the same as everybody else… What Annaleise has done is provided that for children with cancer and that will impact the rest of their lives.”

Why did Annaleise swim Erie and Ontario? To raise money so kids with cancer can go camping, can quit being the ‘kid with cancer’ and just be a kid.

And Annaleise, according to the rules, is still too young to volunteer at Camp Trillium.