A local woman is making a splash to raise awareness for the homeless and hungry in Guelph.
On June 19 at 8 a.m. Kim Gadoury plans to complete an estimated one kilometre swim to raise $10,000 for the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition. She is calling the initiative the Kim Swim.
“I decided at the beginning of November that was what I was going to do, ” said Gadoury, “I sent some emails, reached out to people to see if the right support would be there,everyone said they would if I followed it up, and here we are.”
She explains the decision stems from frustration with the current pandemic and seeing friends struggle to feed their kids after losing their jobs or being unable to work.
“Everything was going wrong and I thought, hey I’m just going to do this,” said Gadoury, “I’ve never swam across the lake and I’ve always wanted to.”
The plan is to set up camp the night prior at the starting point, which is the tip of Guelph Lake Island. The finish line for the swim will be located across the lake where Highway 124 is.
“I kayaked it this morning, it’s not that far, it's just going to take me all day because I'll go slow,” said Gadoury.
Since deciding to do the swim, Gadoury has done training sessions and is preparing to have people follow her in a kayak and a canoe in case of an emergency.
Brendan Johnson, the executive director of the GNSC, recalls being pleasantly surprised when Gadoury reached out about doing this swim for the organization.
“I’ll pop out. I’ll want to cheer her on for sure,” said Johnson.
Johnson mentions the money Gadoury raises through her swim can help support current food programs, like the North End Harvest Market and the youth hub network.
“I’m sure we can find, chatting with Kim, where it (the money) could most make a difference."
As a longtime volunteer of the GNSC and someone who has struggled with homelessness herself, Gadoury explains she felt frustrated by the separation of food and housing programs in Guelph.
“Most of them you have to show some kind of statement, you have to fill out paperwork to access whatever programs,” she said.
Gadoury also points out not everyone who accesses these services for food are poor.
“I know several people that are homeowners that have good equity, who have gone into crisis for one reason or another and you just go into this catatonic state where you can’t eat.”
While Guelph has many food programs, she said it can also be challenging to locate when someone is dealing with a mental health crisis.
Someday, she said she would like to see Guelph have a hostel and 24-hour soup kitchen which could serve residents of all socioeconomic backgrounds. It is an idea she has written to the provincial and federal government about and also applied for funding through a contest hosted by McDougall Insurance & Financial.
“If you look at the European style hostel system and the food access programs, they’re phenomenal,” she said, “and they’re used by every demographic of people."
“Right now, all the homeless shelters, all of the population, is spread out in hotels. I can't see how the government's spending money on putting people up in a hotel has any more economic value than building a hostel where it would be safe and sustainable long term."
While the money raised for Kim Swim won’t be enough to build a hostel, Johnson points out the event can cause a ripple effect, inspiring others to also step up and support their community.
“People like Kim inspire others,” said Johnson, “Anyone can make a difference, all you really need to do is care and just go for it.”