Having lived through her own mental health struggles, Corälee Allaert, a 22-year-old University of Guelph student, has decided to tackle a big challenge to make something positive in her life. She will be swimming across two of the Great Lakes to commemorate the youth who have lost their lives to suicide.
“I’m proving to myself that I can do challenging things during challenging times,” said Allaert.
“For most of my life I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression. As a youth and subsequently after a traumatic event a few years ago, I struggled with it more.”
Allaert reached out to a friend and mentor, Larry Optis, for help. He suggested she try setting goals she can accomplish to improve her mental health. Optis knew she was a great swimmer and asked if she would consider swimming across a large body of water.
The challenge of swimming across both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie came to life.
Allaert swam on a provincial swimming team in the off-season of her wrestling team. She said she wasn’t very good at sprint swimming but was good at long-distance swimming.
Leading up to the challenge Allaert trains six days a week, sometimes 10 hours a day to get ready for the feat of the Great Lakes swims.
Allaert trained with the University of Guelph swim team in preparation for the lake swims.
Time projections for Allaert to finish, if all goes smooth sailing, are 19 to 22 hours for the 51 km stretch of Lake Ontario and seven to eight and half hours for 20 km of Lake Erie.
She said both lakes have their challenges because they are different bodies of water, Lake Erie has strong currents and Lake Ontario has a great distance to swim across.
“I struggle with depression on a daily basis but being able to get up everyday and show up for myself and train kind of gives me that satisfaction that you know life is worth living for. It might be tough now but life is a beautiful gift,” said Allaert.
“Since February of last year to now I’ve definitely seen lots of growth and maturity within myself as a swimmer and as a person.”
She is fundraising for Jack.org and its efforts to support youth mental health. So far she has raised $7,212.20 of her $30,000 goal.
This isn’t the first time she has attempted to swim across Lake Erie but the weather didn’t agree so instead she completed a 12 hour, 30 km indoor swim.
She plans to swim across Lake Erie from June 24 to 26 and Lake Ontario August 10 to 17.
Allaert said people can come to the start and finish line of the swim. They can also view her progress on a live tracker set up by Solo Swims of Ontario.