Victoria group begins 80km swim for COVID-19 relief
VICTORIA -- It’s never easy embarking on an epic journey, especially in the open ocean.
“Holy moley!” Ben says, still shivering from his practice swim near Victoria’s Ogden Point. “It’s cold!”
But once you get used to it, he says, the feeling becomes more manageable.
“Just like an ice-cold lemonade,” Ben smiles. “Or an ice-cold slushee!”
Like a cold drink can refresh on a hot day, Ben wondered what could keep our pandemic fears at bay.
“I came up with this brilliant idea,” Ben says. “I would be one of the biggest superheroes of all!”
Super Ben decided to raise money by doing what he dubbed the Great Big Swim.
To help, he enlisted a super team of fellow athletes with disabilities, the Spirit Orcas. The group is led by ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons.
“The best thing in life for me is when somebody says they can’t do that and watching somebody rise up and do it,” Simmons says. “If I can be part of it, I’m in there!”
The Great Big Swim began on July 1 with Ben singing the national anthem at Brentwood Bay.
After that, Simmons and the Spirit Orcas – supported by a team following along in kayaks – started swimming towards the tip of the Saanich Peninsula.
The 80-kilometre route continues past Victoria to Colwood’s Esquimalt Lagoon. The swimmers are planning to complete the course over eight weeks.
Each 10-kilometre leg is filled with countless challenges.
“There’s the cold, there’s the salt water in your mouth for five hours, the wind, the waves,” Simmons says. “Probably one of the most challenging bodies of water you can pick.”
The Great Big Swim, Simmons says, is a great big hug in a way.
“We’re hugging the coastline during the swim,” she explains. “And we’re hugging you by saying we care so much we’re willing to get in 11-degree water to raise money to make the community better.”
Donations to the Great Big Swim will support the Victoria Foundation’s Vital Victoria Fund, which supports pandemic recovery.
“I just care about the people,” Ben says. “I am wanting to save them from danger.”
While they may not be faster than a speeding bullet – nor more powerful than a locomotive – these swimmers can raise spirits even higher than the tallest building building with their collective strokes.
“We’re using our powers for good!” Ben says before breaking into a big smile. “To the rescue!”