Penticton firefighter Issy Venables, holding her racing paddle board, is taking part in the Monster and Sea 24 paddle relay on April 14. (Submitted photo)

Cancer fundraiser takes to Okanagan Lake

Penticton and Naramata paddlers joining growing fundraising event

A local firefighter is to take part in an endurance-testing 24-hour-long paddle board relay on Okanagan Lake in mid-April.

Issy Venables is a professional firefighter with the Penticton Fire Department and on April 14, she is taking part in Monster and the Sea’s 24, raising money for local families who are battling cancer.

“We have two teams going with at least 10 people and then we have people that have offered to come out and paddle along with us,” said Venables.

Everyone is welcome to come and cheer them on, she said, whether from the shore or paddling alongside them.

“It doesn’t have to be on stand-up paddle boards, you can bring your canoe or your kayak, you can bring a little dingy out if you want,” said Venables.

The idea of participating in the 24 came up in February while Venables was taking part in a mass paddle in Kelowna, a celebration of life for famed B.C. activist and paddle-boarder Bob Purdy, who died Jan. 29 after battling cancer.

Venables said Purdy, who paddled 2,100 days in a row to raise environmental awareness, had such a big impact within the paddling community the group decided they were going to host the 24 in as many communities across the province as possible.

“It came up at that event and I couldn’t say no,” said Venables.

Related: Kelowna environmental activist dies

Paddlers will be out on the water from 8 a.m. on April 14 until 8 a.m. on April 15, paddling off Naramata between Mill Bay and Manitou Bay, depending on weather conditions.

“We start off together as a group, we do a midnight paddle as a group and then we finish together as a group,” said Venables.

Between those group paddles, participants will be switching off, with at least two people on the water at all times. Venables said it will roughly be one hour on, one hour off.

“Some people might choose to paddle more, and depending on how people feel when they are out there, they might paddle less if they are starting to feel fatigued, and it could be a safety issue for them,” said Venables, adding that safety is a requirement.

She said paddlers will have lights on the water for the overnight portion, and participants will all have their personal flotation devices and other equipment.

“We are always leashed to our boards, so if we fall off our boards, they can’t get away from us,” she said.

This is the first year for Penticton and Naramata to take part in the Monster and Sea 24, which started in 2015 when a group of six Seattle paddlers got together to raise some funds and have some fun.

They raised $7,000 that first year. The next year, 24 spread to seven cities and raised $50,000. In 2017, 22 across the U.S. and Canada took part, raising $145,000.

The organizers of the 24 have kept the event at a grassroots level.

“We are not a foundation or a charity. We don’t have red tape. Our goal is a simple one: Fill envelopes with donations and get them in the hands of families dealing with cancer,” reads the 24 group’s information release.

Venables said one of the participants in the local relay was actually a recipient of a 24 envelope two years ago, and is now cancer free. One of their intended recipients from this event is Naramata youth battling cancer, Wills Hodgkinson, who is undergoing treatment in Vancouver.

The paddlers are hoping to help many more. The goal, Venables explained, is to hand out as many “24” envelopes, each filled with $1,000 cash, as possible.

”For us to be able to raise this money without it going through a second party and being able to present this money in envelopes to each individual, or the individual’s family, I think there is something reallly special in that. It goes a long ways,” said Venables.

Contributions to the event can be made via a GoFundMe account at gofundme.com/ytw6b-monster-and-sea-24.

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