Christmas Spirit arrived in Burlington last week – it was delivered by a bunch of hockey coaches.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 26, 2012  That stuff about Christmas starting the day after Halloween is a little too rushed for me.  I like to ease into Christmas reasonable early in December and like it when the store and supermarkets ease me into the Christmas Season.

While driving home earlier this week the wife burst into the house and said “you aren’t going to believe this but there is a house down the street that already has their Christmas tree up.  I looked on my way out later and sure enough – there it was – a white plastic one to boot.

Christmas has a sense of season about it but that Christmas Spirit isn’t something we control nor is it something we can decide has to appear when we want it.  Like all things spiritual – we are on the receiving end – it arrives when it is supposed to arrive.

Jill Harrington a wacky, wired, single Mother run the Christmas For Seniors event.  It’s an organization that keeps in touch with different seniors groups across the city and asks them what they would like for Christmas.  These are people who are a bit on the being alone side; their family isn’t in the area, the spouses may no longer be with them.  They have fond memories of Christmas past and don’t want for all that much.

Harrington collects the names and what they would like and then places tags on Christmas trees that are put up in stores, office buildings – wherever she can get a tree she can put tags on.

A typical Children of Christmas Past tree set up in more than 30location in Burlington with trees also set up in Alberta and Nova Scotia.

People see the tree, see the tags, look at what is being asked for and if they feel the gift is something they can give they buy the gift, get it to Harrington who then delivers it to the senior.

Yes, it is labour intensive and Harrington does the work while holding down a full time job and raising a delightful ten year old boy who is still on the shy side.

Harrington handles it all by multitasking.  During one of our conversations Harrington appears to be talking to someone other than me – “not too much chocolate in the coffee please” which had nothing to do with the conversation we were having.

Harrington had sent me a note telling me of a huge surprise she got.

She had said to her seniors: “Wish with a big heart – what would you like, what do you need?”

To her surprise there were six requests for chairs that have the capacity to lift a person from the chair to a standing position.  They are called “reclining lift chairs”.

Harrington had no idea where she was going to find the money to pay for these gift requests but she knew that if she did raise the money she would have to get some help delivering the chairs.  They aren’t the kind of thing you tuck under your arm as you ring a doorbell to deliver a gift.

Harrington knows everyone you need to know to operate in Burlington.  She got herself in front of the Bulldogs coach at the Burlington Lions Optimist Minor Hockey Association and asked if they could lend her someone with a truck to deliver the chairs – assuming she could raise the money to buy them.

In no particular order Burlington Lions Optimist Minor Hockey Association coaches and staff with Burlington’s Mayor. Sheila Ramage, Kelly Meikle, Tim Wilson, Doug Rogers, Perry Lake, Scott Wright, Mike Milford and Rusty Reingruber. The coaches put up the funds to pay for the reclining lift chairs and said they would handle the delivery as well.

The coaches listened politely and told Harrington they would get back to her.  That was the best she could do, she thanked them for their time and moved on to the next challenge.  In less than ten minutes she got a text on her smart phone BLOMHA:

Hi Jill,

The Bulldogs are going to purchase the 6 chairs you require for your Seniors. I pitched it to the group of Coaches and all 25 Bulldogs Teams are going to chip in and buy these chairs ($600 each) Congratulations!!!!!!  Great cause.

Tim Wilson, a BLOMHA coach

BLOMHA would pay for all six chairs – and yes they would arrange for the delivery as well. The association is paying for two of the six with the coaches paying for the other four.

The Christmas Spirit had arrived a little earlier than Harrington expected and so did the tears that just flooded down her face.

The Burlington Lions Optimist Minor Hockey association was formed in 1951 by members of the Burlington Central Lions Club and the Optimist Club of Burlington, making it one of the oldest, longest serving youth organizations in our city. Members of both clubs were once actively involved in the operation of the organization. BLOMHA is governed by Hockey Canada, Ontario Hockey Federation and Alliance Hockey.

They are a not for profit, non-share corporation and volunteer based organization with 2,250 players registered making them the largest minor hockey association in our city. Their aims and objectives are to foster, promote and teach amateur hockey within the City of Burlington and to provide the maximum opportunity for all eligible individuals to participate regardless of their ability.

There are close to 500 volunteers registered to assist in the running of the program, which includes the operation of about 135 teams. All coaches, team trainers and other volunteers are fully qualified, accredited and insured, in keeping with the guidelines issued by governing bodies of minor hockey in Canada.

Cups. trophies, plaques and pictures – all the signs of hockey players as they move from one level to another; from one tournament to the next. BLOMHA’s 25 coaches take several thousand players through the training and the physical development every year.

A key goal of BLOMHA is to provide programs that develop each player’s full potential, subject to talent, ability and enjoyment of the game. Hockey is a competitive game therefore we are organized into three progressively competitive levels. BLOMHA is the only minor hockey association in Burlington that offers a complete range of programs available to all players regardless of ability.

Harrington was grateful that BLOHMA came through and with “thank you’s” galore done, she adjusted to the great news and the extraordinary act of kindness and moved on to collecting the gift requests and making up the tags that would go on Christmas trees and then actually getting the tags to the trees they are going to go on.

It gets a little hectic for Harrington but the work is made so much easier when she gets a response like the one she got from the Bulldogs.

Christmas for Seniors is in its thirteenth year of operation.  It grows year after year.  Last year there were 3,230 requests; Harrington expects that to go to more than 4000 in 2012  .

There are  30 trees in Burlington locations.

Harrington does the work with no form of remuneration, she doesn’t even get gas money.  Everything that comes in is donated and it goes out the door to a senior who might not otherwise get a Christmas gift.

The names of people asking for a gift are collected by people who work in retirement homes, nursing homes, long term care facilities and  people who work one on one with seniors.

Jill Harrington, Executive Director of the Christmas for Seniors charity works with her son Noah sorting tags that will be placed on Christmas trees where people can choose a gift they would like to give

Each location is given a spread sheet file that Harrington sends them.  The names and the gift they would like are entered on the spread sheets which are then aggregated to create a master list which Harrington then uses to create the tags that get placed on Christmas trees.  People pick up a tag, purchase and wrap the gift and then deliver it to Harrington’s home.  “There is a box on the porch – it’s the greatest honour system you can imagine.  Elves come by several times a day and put the gift inside the box” adds Harrington. “I call them elves”.

The gifts are stored at Harrington’s house until the day before Christmas. “We used to deliver them on Christmas Day but there were just too many to get done in the one day so now they are delivered a day or so before Christmas and handed out Christmas day.

Harrington has what she calls “elves” – these are people that arrange for the collection of the gift.  “There are a couple of dozen people who have a key to my house; the just come in put the gifts in a pile and we sort and get them ready for delivery.

A little unorganized?  Labour intensive?  Could a more efficient system be created?  Probably; but right now Harrington is focused on getting the labels out on the trees and then getting the gifts back to her house and delivered to their Christmas Day destinations.

The request for the reclining lift chairs was  a little on the “high” side.  “It was totally unexpected” said Harrington but once I had the request I thought ‘what the heck’.  Let me ask someone and see where it gets me.”

Could be if that’s the way you choose to see it.  Harrington asked the seniors:  what would you ‘wish’ for?

How plugged up does her house get?  Well her son does have to give up a part of his room when Christmas is just a week or so away but they manage to find the space they need.  “At some point” Harrington admits, “we are going to have to change the way we run this charity”.  She is organized as a non profit but doesn’t have charitable status. “I don’t need it right now”, says Harrington.

If you want to help out – send Harrington an email.   Visit the web site 

The program is growing beyond Burlington .  There are trees set up in Nova Scotia and Alberta.  Not easy to administrate all that from Burlington and Harrington realizes it is time to move from her dining room table to an office and secure the funding to allow her to develop it into a national program. “We are going to have more seniors to care for – not fewer” explains Harrington and there will be many of them who don’t have family to both care for them and remember them.

The poster identifies a tree that will have tags identifying a charity for Children of Christmas Past.

Harrington has both compassion for seniors and empathy for their plight.  She is currently working on a book on “elder abuse” and assuring that older people can live their lives with dignity. Once that has been turned over to her publisher’s  Jill Harrington is going to become a regular columnist for Our Burlington and will write about seniors for seniors.  Should be interesting.

This project has been a grind for Jill Harrington; 13 years of running around every day for the last quarter of every year and putting in five to six hours every night, usually with the help of her son Noah and an hour or so more once he is tucked into bed.

“You know” commented Harrington, after a talk about where this project can go, should go in the future, “in all the years I’ve been doing this – no one has asked me what I want for Christmas”.  Telling isn’t it.

The gift from the hockey coaches though was gift enough for Jill Harrington.

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Bayhawks Soccer U14’s & U16’s show up at council meeting to be congratulated for a superb year. Take a pass on council meeting.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 5, 2012  The Council Chamber was close to filled with dozens of young women in sports sweats, many wearing medals that clinked together as they walked.  Were they there to delegate to Council?  All of them?  That would be unusual.  They were polite and when Mayor Goldring announced why they were there they trooped to the podium and gathered while the Mayor explained.

Burlington Bayhawks Under 14 girls soccer team, pose for the camera after being recognized by city council for an outstanding season

This was the 50th anniversary of the Burlington Youth Soccer Club and the two groups;  the U14 and the U16 Burlington Bayhawks soccer teams were there to be recognized for an outstanding year on the soccer field.  They won at every level they played at.

Burlington Bayhawks wearing their “bling” and waiting to be called to the podium.

During the presentation, the members of each team were given a pin with the city crest on it – they were photographed and told they didn’t have to stay for the rest of the Council meeting – they left immediately – these kids know a dull show when they see one.

The club has done very well with its program.  Five of the women who played on Canada’s Olympic Soccer team came out of the Burlington program; probably more from Burlington than any other club in Canada.  A record for which they have every right to be very proud.

The Burlington Bayhawks Girls Under 16 came out on top in the Ontario Youth Soccer West Division; the Ontario Youth Soccer level;  the Ontario Cup, the National Cup and added to that five first places in competitions that took place in the United States.

The team record for the season was 45 wins; 3 ties and 1 loss.

Burlington Bayhawks – girls under 16 soccer team took every level they played at during the season.

The Burlington Bayhawks Under 14 Girls did just as well.  They triumphed at the National Cup level, the Ontario Youth level and the Ontario Cup level.

Their season record was 27 wins, 4 ties and five losses with 115 goals earned and 31 against.  These 14 year olds will move on to the U16 level where they will be a very competitive team.

With five,  2012 soccer Olympians coming out of the Burlington club – Canadians are likely to see our teams in the finals much more often. We may just begin to see a winning streak we have not seen for some time.

Mayor Goldring suggested that the teams’ success was a direct result of the “pep” talk he and Councillor Sharman gave the two teams before they left to compete in Vaughan and Prince Edward Island.  Watching those girls stride to the podium to be congratulated, left little doubt in the minds of all  that they didn’t need much in the way of “pep” talks to win.  These girls were champions!

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She writes, she wins awards, drives like the proverbial bat out of **** – and she dances.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 5, 2012   There was a banquet recently at which awards were given out by the Automotive Journalists of Canada  association.  Burlington`s Lorraine Sommerfeld always wins an award for something – there`s that sense of entitlement she has to which you have to add that she is really pretty good.  Damn good actually.

She brings to her columns as an automotive writer a sparkle, a sharp wit and more technical knowledge than some of the guys over at Canadian Tire.

We first met Sommerfeld at a Shape Burlington community event and then got to know her a bit better when we realized she and her boys were a part of the Boich family and was a best friend supporter to Arlene Miller, the late John Boich`s wife.  She`s the kind of person that is `there ‘when you need her.  During some of the darker days at the Boich household Sommerfeld would show up with a car that only a high maintenance wife would get to drive around and she and Arlene would head up into the Escarpment to give Arlene a sense of what it meant to really own the road.

A couple of weeks ago was – well let her tell the full story. “Last night was the AJAC banquet, where they name annual winners in the automotive journalism world. There are 5 writing categories, one photography one and one layout. I won a writing one. I really wanted to win one for my picture of the red car with the stork thing, but, they were having none of that, apparently.

“Wakefield/Castrol offers an award in Technical Topics. I submitted several of my pieces and one of them won.. It was a column of mine that has a Ferris Bueller quote in it. And the word ‘penis’.

“The problem was, I was at a table chatting away with friends, and we weren’t paying attention. Then they said my name. And we all started laughing. I finally got up and prayed I wouldn’t catch my heel on the table cloth or something, and was giggling like an idiot. After I sat down, I decided to look and see what I’d won, because of that not paying attention thing. When I read ‘technical topics’ I realized why the room had gotten so quiet. I got told later even my editor looked shocked. And my other editor told people it was because of the headline I won. He writes the headlines.

Lorraine Sommerfeld, learning to dance. she’s normally in a pair of jeans and behind the wheel of a car

Sommerfeld can be found in the Globe and Mail, the Spectator and on Rogers Cable.  Maybe she will write for Our Burlington?  She never offered to take me for a spin in one of those really fancy cars she gets to drive as an automotive journalist.

That`s Lorraine Sommerfeld – oh, she dances too.

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Is Burlington a natural cycling city or is riding a bike a weekend activity? And how does riding my bike fit in with sustainable development?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 12, 2012   Sustainable Development, is one of the city’s advisory committees; one of the Mayors favourites.  They are hosting an event to show residents that there are several ways to enjoy cycling as a primary form of transportation in Burlington.

What does this have to do with sustainable development?  And is cycling really a primary form of transportation in a city like Burlington and in the Canadian climate?

As part of the Take Action Burlington program, “Get in Gear” is bringing  together medical, environmental and social experts to discuss ideal ways to make cycling safe, fun and rewarding in Burlington.  The event – free – takes place at Central Library (2331 New St.) on Thursday, Oct. 18, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Special guests at Take Action Burlington: Get in Gear, include:  Dr. Monir Taha, Assoc. Medical Officer of Health,  Halton Region, Kevin Love, Burlington Sustainable Development Committee, Justin Jones, Clean Air Partnership, Abram Bergen, THAAT Delivery, and Jack Dennison, Burlington Ward 4 City Councillor

For Rob Narejko  a good ride on one of his bikes is better than a night out. A passionate believer in greater use of bicycles, Narejko has served on the city’s cycling committee for some time. He recently led a night ride that had some 20+ people out on the roads at night.

“Burlington is a city of vibrant neighbourhoods criss-crossed by multi-use paths and bike lanes – and there will be more to come,” says  avid cyclist and Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison. “It is a council priority to increase the number of people who cycle, walk and roll in Burlington.”

Dennison is a major supporter of cycle use in the city but during the process of setting the budget for 2012 he carved large chunks of money out of gas tax money we get for transit and shoved it into “shave and pave” – so that our roads will last a little longer.  Now Jack will argue that he was saving money by investing in infrastructure and he might be right.

Scott Stewart, “general manager of development and infrastructure sees “a genuine need to make cycling in Burlington more accessible and more enjoyable. ”   What does that mean?  How realistic is it all?

Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and

the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”

The sustainable development philosophy requires that we see the world as a system—a system that connects space; and a system that connects time.  When you think of the world as a system over space, you grow to understand that air pollution from North America affects air quality in Asia, and that pesticides sprayed in Argentina could harm fish stocks off the coast of Australia.

And when you think of the world as a system over time, you start to realize that the decisions our grandparents made about how to farm the land continue to affect agricultural practice today; and the economic policies we endorse today will have an impact on urban poverty when our children are adults.

We also understand that quality of life is a system, too. It’s good to be physically healthy, but what if you are poor and don’t have access to education?   It’s good to have a secure income, but what if the air in your part of the world is unclean? And it’s good to have freedom of religious expression, but what if you can’t feed your family?

Special lanes for bicycles and the speed at which vehicles travel along city roads are an ongoing concern for Rob Narejko  who stands here beside recently painted sharrows on city streets.

The concept of sustainable development is rooted in this sort of systems thinking. It helps us understand ourselves and our world. The problems we face are complex and serious—and we can’t address them in the same way we created them. But we can address them.

Fine, I buy into most of that.  No doubt in the minds of most people, that we are experiencing global warming and we’re pretty sure we know why this is happening.  And, we know that we can do something about the way we treat the climate we have.  But, is riding my bike down Guelph Line going to change the environment?  It gives me a pretty decent chance of getting killed as I try to get over the QEW hump.  I’m not safe until I get to Woodward Avenue, where I can make a right hand turn and pedal pleasantly along as I make my way to city hall, where I spend far too much of my time.

I’ll do what I can to save this planet.  But please don’t ask me to get on my bike and roll along Guelph Line – it just ain’t safe.

At a recent Council committee meeting Rob Narejko, a biggy in Burlington cycling circles delegated on the speed limits on various roads in the city with Walker’s Line getting most of the attention. Walkers Line, north of Dundas, really isn’t a properly paved road; it’s a pitch and chip covered road that doesn’t have much in the way of a shoulder for cyclists but they like it nevertheless; it’s the safest of the three roads that carry traffic into the northern part of the city.

It is also the road the cyclists like to use because it has the kind of terrain they like and it is pretty safe as far as the speed of the passing traffic goes.

From a sustainability point of view – isn’t Walkers Line then a road we would want to upgrade so that there was space on the sides for cyclists and wouldn’t we want to keep the speed limit at the 50k?  Isn’t that what we mean by sustainability?

There is an opportunity to develop a very healthy Eco-tourism business in the city if we provide roads that are safe and speed limits that take into account the fact that people use the roads as well.  THAT is what sustainability is really about.

There was no mention of upgrading Walkers Line and there was no suggestion that this should be made a “wanna get” in our long range budget thinking.  Unfortunate.  It will be interesting to hear what the experts have to say.

Meanwhile Eva Amos, an Our Burlington reader,  reflects what appears to be the prevailing view in this city: Burlington is “Quickly becoming  not one of the very best places to live if you are a motorist in Burlington.  The population is exploding, the roads are being narrowed, the aggressive driving is increasing largely due to the configuration of the roads.  Prime examples are Lakeshore in the downtown core which was to have been a pilot project, deferred for review to 2011. 

No review yet.  Now the narrowing of Guelph Line, Walkers Line and Appleby Line south of New street and Plains Road.    Stand on any one of these corners and with every light change you will see the aggressive drivers driving up the short curb lanes only to cut off the drivers in the single through lane.  Add to this, the long line of idling cars trying to squeeze into the single lanes adding to the pollution.    Councillors and Mr. Mayor.  You are not going to get the majority of people in Burlington on bikes.  Please give us back our roads so we can get around the city in a safe and timely fashion.  We have wonderful bike paths throughout the city for our cyclists, I being one of them.


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Riding horses – chomping at the bit.

By Margaret Lindsay Holton

BURLINGTON, ON  October 12, 2012  When I was seventeen I was in a car accident and broke my back. I was in a body brace for eight months and it took me two full years to walk properly again. During my final examination, the specialist told me that I had been very lucky. He said I could have been paralyzed for life. He strongly advised that I never ride a motorbike, water-ski or horseback ride ever again. As he said, “It would be tempting Fate.” Somber words, yet, even so, as a teenager, I needed to KNOW my real physical limitations. So, within another two years, I got my motorcycle license, went on a marathon water-skiing weekend in Northern Ontario, and, in the Brecon Beacon National Park of Wales, went horse-back riding – for the very last time.

While passing through the quaint farming village of Crickhowell situated on the River Usk below Table Mountain, I decided I wanted to give it a try. Yes, I wanted to ride in that breath-taking Welsh countryside. I found a local farm that offered a ‘trail ride’ on top of the overshadowing Brecon Beacons.

Soon I was mounted up on a lovely tempered 15 hand chestnut mare named ‘Jewel’. Jack, the stable owner, and myself trotted up into the wind-swept barren splendor of those magnificent rolling hills. The landscape was riveting. It was a fabulous, and memorable ride, but not just because of the views.

Jack had offered a word of caution when we had set out from the barn, “Watch out for the wild ponies. Look, but whatever you do, Do Not Engage.”  Sure enough, while cantering along an upper ridge, we saw a small herd grazing in the gulley below. We dutifully steered clear, but, it appears we were ‘up wind’ because within a matter of minutes the feisty black stallion from this wild pony herd appeared beside us on the ridge. Jack tried to spook him off but he was not deterred. The stallion watched and paced along beside us for several minutes.

Our horses became very restless and my mare began an intense head bounce that pulled the reins from my hands. Within seconds, she bolted. Mayhem ensued. As she galloped off I held onto her mane for dear life. The pony stallion fell into pursuit and came thundering up beside us. The mare began dodging and weaving. All I could think of was staying on. My legs were clenched tight around her body.

The stallion roughly body-slammed us and reared up, stallion like. I was ABSOLUTELY terrified. Meanwhile, Jack had been in hot pursuit and with his much larger horse body-slammed, shouting, into the rearing and kicking pony stallion. I fell off the back end of the mare onto the ground. The startled stallion abruptly turned on its heel and ran back to his herd. Jack jumped off his steed and ran over. Luckily, I was badly shaken up, but otherwise, fine, nothing broken. Jack helped me back up onto the now jittery (but also fine) ‘Jewel’ and we slowly walked back down to the farm. The gods, in their infinite wisdom, had sent a clear ‘WARNING’. And I haven’t ridden since.


Horses have as much personality as your favourite dog or cat.

I think every child, especially those born in the country, go through a ‘horsey’ stage.  One of my first memories of ‘riding’ was ‘cantering’ around the neighbour’s field as an infant, barefoot, neighing, with my friend’s fuzzy head bopping along in front of me.  Then began the ferocious reading of various children’s horse stories   . followed by the obsessive collecting of porcelain horse figurines and finally, I was fixated on horse films, like National Velvet,  , (starring an unknown child actress, Elizabeth Taylor). My friends and I, at the age of 10, were absolutely horse mad.

Over the years, I was taught to ride ‘English’, even though our neighbours rode ‘Western’. I had always wanted to ride ‘bareback’ but never had the nerve. Trust me, it really does take some nerve. My friend would run up then catapult herself onto the back of one of their burr encrusted field ponies and just take off, gleeful. I never had the guts to do that.

After an assortment of riding academies from Freelton to Kilbride, I finally found my favourite ride, Geronimo, a palomino blend with a frisky spirit to match. Those were fun years. Several hours of every Saturday were devoted to the barn: sweeping and hosing down the stalls, grooming the beast, followed by long joy-filled rides back country, blissful under the autumn sun.  But, during the mid-teen years, my equine interest began to wane. I discovered the joy – and freedom – of driving a car, and soon, I quietly left all things horsey behind …

Back to the barn.

Except, every fall, when the autumn colours turn vibrant, and the air turns crisp and clear again, I find I still long for a gentle canter with Geronimo along those dusty trails through the hidden back fields of Halton County.

Yet, to do so now, would, methinks, severely test Fate …


Back fields of Burlington, on top of the Escarpment, Region of Halton.

In Burlington, experienced and inexperienced riders can saddle up at the following stables:

Bayview Equestrian Centre

Bertin Stables

Parish Ridge Stables

Reschburl Equestrian Centre

Readers are advised to familiarize themselves with individual horse farms to find the horse or pony that best suits their own level of expertise and character.  Horses have as much personality as your favourite dog or cat.  Judge, and ride, accordingly.

Margaret Lindsay Holton is both an environmentalist and a community activist.  She is an artist of some renown and the designer of a typeface.  She is also a photographer and the holder of opinions, which are her own, that she will share with you in an instant.   She appears as an Our Burlington columnist every two weeks.  Unless otherwise stated all photography was done by MLH.


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Burlington students to take part in Regional Water Festival at Kelso Conservation – 4000 from Region expected to attend.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  October 22, 2012  In the week we are going into more than 4,000 Halton students will spend a part of a day taking part in the seventh annual Halton Children’s Water Festival (HCWF) being held from September 25 to 28, 2012.

Students from grades two to five registered to participate in the festival taking place outdoors at the picturesque Kelso Conservation Area in Milton.

He really wants you to look at the bullfrog he is holding.

Students at the Festival will experience a unique opportunity to learn about water in a fun and interactive way at activity centres which cover Ontario curriculum requirements. New this year, French language activity centres will be piloted with grade five French Immersion students on Thursday, September 27.  The HCWF features nearly 60 activity centres that incorporate four main water related themes:

Kids + water = fun and noise – all part of the Halton Children’s Water Festival. A full day of fun at a cost of $5 per student.

“Since the Halton Children’s Water Festival began in 2006, more than 25,000 children have participated which shows the demand and interest for high quality environmental education in our community,” said Conservation Halton Chairman John Vice. ”The Festival’s success is due to the enthusiastic participation by volunteers, teachers and students backed by the commitment of partner organizations as well as tremendous support from individuals and businesses in the community.  We thank everyone who has participated and contributed to the Water Festival over the past seven years.”

The Festival is co-hosted by Conservation Halton and Halton Region in partnership with, the Halton District School Board, the Halton Catholic District School Board, the City of Burlington, the Town of Halton Hills, the Town of Milton, and the Town of Oakville.  This partnership has created a successful and financially sustainable water festival in Halton. Conservation Halton Chairman John Vice and Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr serve as the Festival’s honorary co-chairs.

It isn’t all classroom stuff – just look at the way this girl rounds the bale of hay. A winner for sure.

The Festival is a community partnership dependent on more than 150 volunteers each day to help with various activities. Halton high school students and community volunteers are once again generously offering their time and gaining experience in community outreach, public speaking, teaching and time management.

The Festival is offered to Halton schools at a cost of just $5 per child, which includes a full day at the Festival as well as transportation to and from the event. Schools seeking Ontario EcoSchools certification can count their attendance at the HCWF as a field trip in the Curriculum category.

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Bateman Wild Senior’s football puts 30 member squad on field; now want to win their tier, Pearson & Aldershot need to be beat.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 12, 2012   There they were, out on the field, grunting, running, stretching their limbs – more than thirty of them practicing as the Bateman High School Senior Football team.

The protesting team – from the left: John Phelps, Chad Doan, Kennedy Dyet and Chris Bishop.  When the football players learned their team had been scrubbed from the football schedule they took to the streets in protest.  They made their point and the football team is back on the field.  Now they might have to deal with a teacher work stoppage.

They had to protest to get there – but after a part of a day out on the street waving signs and seeking support for their team – they were back in business.

No one remembers when there was a demonstration by students at Bateman before and it took courage to make the decision to protest when they learned that their wasn’t going to be a Senior Bateman football team on the field for 2012.

Chris North sent an email to Our Burlington – we ran with his letter and followed up with a visit to the school to see how the protest and demonstration went.  While there, we saw some student behavior that was great, we saw kids talking in groups the way students around the world talk in groups and we saw students that were behaving – let’s be blunt about this – it was just plain dumb behaviour.  We certainly heard about that from more than 45 students and the parents of students.  That’s all part of an interactive process where people get to say what they think.  We will comment on how that went later in the week.

This piece is about the football team – the guys that decided they weren’t prepared to see their team disappear from the roster.  Chris Bishop led the group that was made up of Chad Doan, Kennedy Dyet and John Phelps.  All are back at Bateman doing an additional year to upgrade their marks.  All have clear plans to attend university with a pretty good idea of what it is they want to study.

Four high school football players who felt their team was wronged and took to the streets in protest. They made their point and are now back on the football field. Gotta be at least eight proud parents out there. From the left: John Phelps, Chad Doan, Kennedy Dyet and Chris Bishop.

Doan wants to study psychology.  “I’m interested in the way people behave and want to learn more about that”, said Doan, which led to questions about how the school administration behaved when they decided to shut down the team.

Chris Bishop thinks he wants to study criminology and maybe look into law.  Another student wants to study sports management.

The students felt they were told it would be “impossible” for a senior team to be put together and so they were scrubbed from the schedule.

“They had a mind-set and didn’t think we could field a team” said Dyet who coaches a team in the Burlington Minor Football Association.

These four young men didn’t see it that way.  They believed they could mount a team but, just as important to them was the rule that would mean there would be no team playing the following year if they did not mount a team this year – and these four young men didn’t want to see that happen to those that would follow them.

Kennedy Dyet wonders why they had to protest. “We were told there was nothing they could do for us” but once the protest was underway the principal of the school met with the football players and asked how he could help.

It looks as if the Phys-ed people had given up on the students and pulled the team from the schedule.  The students say they weren’t told the team was being pulled. There was clearly a lot of energy and enthusiasm on the part of at least some members of the team, which when identified, moved the administration to get behind the students.  Now the football players have to get the school behind the team and begin winning some games.

On Tuesday evening there were 29 seniors out on the field – huffing and puffing through the exercises.  It looked like a good workout from the side lines.

The Bateman Seniors are a Tier 3 team – they want to move to at least Tier 2 and see Pearson and Aldershot as the schools they have to beat.  “We’ve got six to seven regular games in the season” explained  Dyet “and then the semi-finals.

Football team protests the scrubbing of their team from the schedule. Administration changes its mind – team out practicing – next they have to win some games.

Chris Bishop feels the support they need is now there for them within the administration but also feels that it wasn’t there for them before they hit the streets with their signs.  “The principal did meet with us at the Bistro and asked us what it was we wanted and we told him we wanted our team on the field.  “Mr. Heffernan said he would do everything he could to help us – that’s all we wanted” said Bishop.

Kennedy Dyet added that the volleyball players are battling for a program “and we think what we’ve done will help them get what they feel they deserve.”

“We had faith that we could make out point” added Dyet “and now we have to do the hard work.”

The players commented on the new coaching staff they have. “These guys have great history commented” commented Chad, “one of our coaches was with Team Canada.”

Is there a problem with the commitment level on the part of the phys-ed staff and the school administration at Bateman?  May have been. Had they given up on their students and as Kennedy put it, brought a “mind set” to the table that prevented them from seeing what the students wanted and what they were prepared to do.

Will the “no strike” legislation the provincial government has passed impact this football team that has shown it wants to be out on the field playing the game.  Are teacher politics going to get in the way of the educational process the way it did in when the Mike Harris government was battling the teachers?

The young men we talked to were polite, focused, left me feeling there was a clear sense of purpose and an objective they had thought through.  I came away with the feeling that there are eight proud parents out there somewhere.

The task now is to develop and condition their team and support them with enthusiasm that provides the energy and that extra bit of “make it happen” that a cheering crowd can give a team.  All four young men know  exactly what a cheering audience can do for athletes.

Go Wild!



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Bateman Wilds football team take to the streets to protest the decision to shut down the team.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON   September 10, 2012    The team was supposedly shut down because they couldn’t  field a full squad – but that wasn’t the way the Bateman Wilds saw things so they took to the streets with an early Monday morning sidewalk protest in front of the school.

Bateman High’s Phys-Ed staff didn’t think the school could field a full squad and took steps to cancel the fall program. Football players took to the streets in protest

Chris Bishop – certainly a football player given his size, was the spokesperson for the group and the person who sang the team cheer the loudest.

There are teachers at Bateman High that would like to see this much effort IN the classroom. The football players take their message to the streets.

If a football squad needs 30 people,  there were more than 30 enthusiastic students out there this morning. `We`re here for the day” explained Bishop, as he headed back to the fellow football players on the side walk exhorting every car that passed to honk their horns in support.

Bishop added that “if you put enough pressure on something there will be a change” and he fully expects the staff at the high school to rescind the decision.

Bishop thinks the school didn’t give the football players the time they needed to pull their team together and feels they acted a little too early in shutting them down.

Not everyone at Bateman High focuses on football. This crowd, steps away from the protest, chats away before time to get into a classroom approaches. Different folks – different strokes.

Bateman High, located on New street east of Appleby Line is your typical large school where cars stream into the driveway to let students out and buses slip in and out efficiently.

Many of the students knew nothing about the football protest.  Like any other suburban high school there are different groups; the “fashion plates” are easy to identify; the geeks not so easy but they are there.  The women on the field hockey team with their sticks in hand as well as the “couple” that have something going.

The chatter between the different groups is loud at times, but not unduly so.  They carry a lot of books in those bags on their shoulders.

They stream off the bus that stops in in front of the school and all seem to arrive in large bunches.

Female student casually dropped the donut wrapper on the ground and puffed away on her cigarette while enjoying her coffee. The wrapper, shown on the right, blew away into the street.  Not the best or the brightest at Bateman High.

There are the “cool” ones; the slightly older crowd who, the morning I was there certainly weren’t anything to be proud of.  The smoking was bad enough – don’t they read? – but the blatant littering – one swishy female student just dropped the donut wrapper on the ground, while another cool dude with the crowd kept spitting on the sidewalk.  They certainly weren’t representative of the crowd; this lot did little for the schools reputation.

Bateman High staff look on as student protesters wave their signs and tell their side of the story. Can staff and students work this out? Will the Bateman Wild be on the field this season? Stay tuned

The football players planned on being on the street for the day.  At some point they will meet with the principal and the Phys-Ed people and work out a solution.  Someone in the Phys-Ed department is wishing the students had shown this level of enthusiasm earlier in the football season.   First practice is a couple of days away.  Will the “Wild” be on the field?  In strength?

Could this kind of enthusiasm take them to the finals?

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Student to protest at Bateman High over the shutdown of the football program.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON   September 9, 2012   We haven’t done very much on sports in Burlington – it comes down to the manpower we have available.  Saturday afternoon, while returning from an interview I noticed a lot of people in Palmer Park standing there holding umbrellas in a pretty consistent rain.  I pulled over and parked.

It was raining, the ground was wet, slippery and the football was hard to hang onto – but the game went on.

There were two games going on – and it was wet.  The players were slipping and sliding and there was a lot more falling on the ball than passing it – but it was high school level football.  I took some pictures, asked a bystander who was playing and what the name of the league was.

Parents buy the equipment, drive their kids to the practices and the games – and then have the joy of sitting in the rain to take it all in. The joys of being parents.

The Argos and the Alouettes of the Burlington Minor Football Association were on the field I was looking at.  Came home, downloaded the pictures and wondered how I could work them into a story.

Because community journalism is something that is always fresh and full of surprises – here is the balance of the story.

“My name is Christopher J. Bishop and I am a returning student at Robert Bateman High School (RBHS). Last year I was a part of the senior football team of our school. We did not win many games, but we had one thing, and it was heart. We were a family. Many of my brothers of the team stayed an extra year to play the sport we love, with the most returning students we’ve seen. Last year we played with a roster of around 18 members. Every year we have training camp in the summer before school and our season starts to get trained and a step up on other schools. This year was a bit different; we had new members added to our family, Coach Kevin Holmes and Coach Podlewski. With more than 20 years of coaching experience and time played in the CFL, the team had a new program ahead of them, and was ready to pave a path for the years to come of Bateman football.

“We regularly had 18 players out to practices just like the previous years, training harder and learning the game of football better than we ever had before. With dedication and commitment we were excited for our new season of ball, and being a part of the change. A week before today, our goal was to get 20 players out to have an even more successful year than the last.

“We still made it out to practice and spread the word around the school. Last night though around 5:00PM it changed. The director of physical education at our school, Tim Middlebro, told the coaches to tell the team that we were cancelling the team and folding the season.

“Students and players spoke to coaches, staff, and administration to see if there was any way of participating this season with our team, the Wild. Principal Regan Heffernan spoke to members of the team explaining that the issue was the lack of players coming out.

“Mr. Heffernan suggested that if 30 players were out to practice the decision would be reconsidered by the school. Taking the knowledge, players of the team rallied together using social networking to assemble an increased line-up of players for the team. Then today, with a shocking number of 32 players gathered, the team was told that Tim Middlebro went to a pre-season football conference the night before with the board explaining he wanted the team cancelled.

The students on the Bateman High School football team would love an opportunity to play in the rain. According to their side of the story they are not being given the chance they feel they deserve.

“The team arrived at our change room to find the door locked and nobody was there to open it. We had to search for a phys-ed teacher who reluctantly opened it. We shortly then after were forced out of the room by our ex-coach, Geoff St-Dennis. He had not yet been involved in the senior program this year, yet however today, he made his second appearance. They told us we couldn’t practice without a coach and that we’d have to leave, however, Coach Podlewski was waiting to see his 30+ players in the parking lot near the side of the field. Once the staff heard of this, they told us we couldn’t practice because “there was no longer a senior football program at Robert Bateman High School.” Within a moment our new found ‘family’ had been ripped apart.

“Many of the players took a stand, telling the coaches it was unfair, bringing up points on how we hadn’t even been given a time frame or knowledge that the team would be folded. The coaches, who decided to coach junior this year, informed us that we were folding the team because they were afraid that if our senior team folded, our junior team would receive a penalty or suspension from the league for the next year. They stripped senior students of their chance to play one last time so the program would have a chance in later years. Some of our players returned solely for football. I looked around the room seeing players in tears. Grown, high school, football jocks crying. We tried to fight hard. We did everything we could within our school to keep our program alive, but our coaches stabbed us in the back.

For a parent watching a BMFA game on a rainy Saturday afternoon – a fashion statement is still possible.

“Tomorrow, we will be protesting out front of our school. Signs, People, anything we can get our hands on to bring attention. We hope that you will be able to join us because all we want is for people to know that we want a football team. We are hoping for more than 100 players, students, parents, and community members coming together for the cause.”

We will try and be there – learn what’s going on.

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Amazing Bed Race takes over Brant Street; No one will be sleeping on these beds.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  September 10, 2012  Beds will be on the move up Brant Street on Sunday, Sept. 23 as the annual Amazing Bed Race returns.

From noon to 3 p.m. teams will compete to see who can push a bed the fastest over a straight-line 100-metre course starting from City Hall.

The event raises funds for The Rotary Club of Burlington North and the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital Foundation.  In its first two years, the Amazing Bed Race has raised more than $170,000.

As long as all the wheels are on at the Finish Line – 100 yards away – it’s legit.

Thirty-nine teams participated last year with 34 registered so far this year. Teams will fund raise, build or borrow a bed, decorate it and race it.

Each team is guaranteed two races. They will be timed with the fastest 16 squads moving into a single elimination round. Teams will race two at a time with the fastest of the 16 being declared the overall winner.

Last year’s event added a Kids Stroller Race and it will be held again this year. It is open to kids between the ages of 4 and 12. They will race with their own stroller in a straight line for 25 metres wearing a helmet. It runs from 12:45-1:15 p.m.

Amazing Bed Race. The event is a fund raiser for the hospital foundation.

Prizes will be awarded to the grand champion bed-racing winner, to the top fundraising team and for the best-decorated bed/team.

Registration has been extended to Sept. 13. Day-of sign in is at 11 a.m.  If you are interested in registering a team, sponsorships, fundraising or need more information, contact Emma Fitzpatrick at the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital Foundation by e-mailing or calling 905-632-3737, ext. 5542.

Donations can be made at

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A “sharrow” on your street? Should you be worried ? Not if you drive a bicycle.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  Sept. 5, 2012— Watch for painted signs along the side of more than two dozen roadways in Burlington.  The city is installing 285 new sharrows throughout the city on streets identified in the city’s Cycling Master Plan as proposed bicycle priority streets.

At $95 a pop – tax included – the city is putting in a couple of dozen of these. They are called sharrows and they tell drivers to share the road with cyclists.

Sharrows are bicycle use road markings that are painted on the road where a complete bike lane barrier cannot be installed.  The markings are meant to attract cyclists who prefer to ride on less busy streets and help increase driver awareness.

“The city’s efforts in improving our cycling infrastructure demonstrate our long-term commitment to promoting and encouraging active transportation in Burlington,” said Scott Stewart, general manager of development and infrastructure.

Burlington received the Bicycle Friendly Community bronze medal award from the Share the Road Cycling Coalition last August. Share the Road is an Ontario-based non-profit organization that promotes bicycling as a mode of transportation, recreation and fitness through provincial advocacy.

Work crews are installing 285 sharrows on the following streets:

•         Millcroft Park Drive from Dundas Street to Walkers Line

•         William O’Connell Boulevard from Millcroft Park Drive to Upper Middle Road

•         Jordan Avenue from Walkers Line to Headon Road

•         Headon Road from Palmer Drive to Headon Forest Drive

•         Forest Run Avenue from Walker’s Line to Bianca Forest Drive

•         Bianca Forest Drive from Forest Run Avenue to Pincay Oaks Lane

•         Headon Forest Drive from Headon Road to Northampton Boulevard

•         Northampton Boulevard from Headon Forest Drive to Dundas Street

•         Duncaster Drive from Upper Middle Road to Cavendish Drive

•         Coventry Way from Cavendish Drive to Guelph Line

•         Tyandaga Park Drive from Brant Street to Kern’s Road

•         Kerns Road from North Service Road to Canterbury Drive

•         Mount Forest Drive from Brant to Fisher Avenue

•         Fisher Avenue from Mountain Forest Drive to Mountainside Drive

•         Mountainside Drive from Fisher Avenue to Guelph Line

•         Mountain Grove Avenue from Mountain Forest Drive to Dead End

•         Martha Street from Centennial Bikeway to Lakeshore Road

•         Pine Street from Brant Street to Martha Street

•         Northshore Road from Belhaven Crescent to LaSalle Park Road

•         Pearl Street from Pine Street to Lakeshore Road

•         Spruce Avenue from Kenwood Avenue to Hampton Heath Road

•         Spruce Avenue from Goodram Drive to Appleby Line

Motorists may experience some delay while pavement markings are put in place.  The work is underway and will be completed this week.

Each sharrow costs $95 to put in place.  The city expects to spend approximately $31,000 this year on sharrows.

$55,000 is budgeted for cycling each year. It is used on minor cycling improvement projects……this includes installation of new bike lanes (grinding of vehicle lane pavement markings and applying new bike lanes)…..curb cuts, sharrows and signage.

Hopefully drivers will see the markings on the roadway and recognize they are expected to share the road they are using with those who choose to cycle.

Once the sharrows are in place we can perhaps see more people using side streets and locations where they can fel safe and be safe.  The REAL challenge for Burlington is coming up with ways to make it safe to use a bicycle on Guelph, Walkers and Appleby Lines.




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There are six of them, these Olympians grew up in this community and we chose to laud and honour the job they did.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 5, 2012  Once they become  Olympians  the title is with them for life.  We applaud them, we laud their achievements and in Burlington we have claimed five as our own – and then we realized we have a sixth – that being Brandon Wager who is participating at the London Paralympic Games.

Canadian cupcakes for three of our Olympians. From the left – Mark Oldershaw, Colin Russell and Melanie Booth.

Burlington held a small reception for the Olympians, it was the second such event.  There was a get together in the Atrium for Colin and Sinead Russell, held to accommodate Sinead’s travel plans.  She was leaving the next day to begin her sports scholarship at a university in Florida.

The event Tuesday evening was larger and included Melanie Booth and Mark Oldershaw.  Melanie was part of the soccer team that dazzled Canadians who felt the pain when the Canadian team lost the opportunity to bring home Gold – but we happily accepted bronze and know that next time out the world is going to watch a superior soccer team.

Oldershaw, who is the fifth member of his family to take part in the Olympics, was on hand.  The man has a remarkably laid back approach to people and speaks exceptionally well.  We will see more of this man.

Both athletes in the room passed their medal around and let anyone wear it for a while.

The unpredictable weather resulted in a small crowd. Other activities kept MP Mike Wallace away (on vacation in Italy) while MP Jane McKenna was in the Legislature debating a bill to ensure teachers don’t walk out. The Mayor came close to getting all mushy about that final soccer game when the Canadian team earned bronze medals

Mayor Goldring came close to getting a little carried away with himself when he spoke of watching every minute of the soccer game “that brought home”  the bronze medals.  Didn’t we all do that?

These young men and woman went to personal lengths few of us manage to do in our lives.  Mindless hours of putting their bodies through routine after routine.  They take on a lifestyle that shuts out many of the pleasures and pleasantries the rest of us enjoy day in and day out.

This is what an Olympian wears when they want to make a fashion statement.

They push their bodies to limits the rest of us don’t even think about doing.  They go without.  They take a pass on opportunities that don’t fit in with the lifestyle of being an Olympian,

We remember them when they win medals and forget them if they don’t.  We want their autographs when they win and don’t even recognize them when they just take part in the Games.

For the record – here is what these remarkable men and woman did:

Melanie Booth; Bronze medal in Woman’s soccer

Scott Dickens, Men’s 100 m breaststroke, Men’s 200 m breaststroke, Men’s 4×100 Medley Relay

Mark Oldershaw; Bronze medal in 1×1000 m canoe sprint.

Colin Russell: Men’s 4×100 Freestyle relay, Men’s 4×200 Freestyle Relay.  Colin retired from Olympic competition this year.

Sinead Russell; Woman’s 100 m backstroke, Woman’s 200 m backstroke.

Brandon Wager; currently at the Paralympic Games

Susan Fraser brought her canoe paddle to the civic reception for the Olympians hoping that Mark Oldershaw would autograph it for her. He willingly signed the paddle which will probably never go into the water again.

The beauty of an electronic media is that what we write is on the web site for as long as we choose to keep it there – and we are thinking in terms of decades.  Among the memories will be the picture of Susan Fraser having her paddle signed by Mark Oldershaw. “What are you going to do with it now?” someone  asked. “I’m taking it to bed with me tonight” replied Fraser.  “My husband can sleep on the couch”.

Oldershaw was very generous in letting people handle his Bronze Medal and put it around their necks.  The scene in the city hall atrium was a public adoring and honouring their Olympians.

The Paralympic Athletes had 20 medals as of this reporting with five gold in the bag.  Brandon Wagner who plays basketball from his wheelchair learned his sport inAldershot.  He will be honoured by the city when  he returns from the games.


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Lake Ontario water conditions for swimming at Beachway Park not as good as they were last week.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  August 31st, 2012  The beach water monitoring results done by the Regional Health Department revealed the following beaches are safe for swimming:

Halton Hills – Prospect Park Old Beach

Oakville – Bronte Park Beach, Coronation Park East

The following beaches are unsafe for swimming:

Oakville –Coronation Park West

Burlington – Beachway Park

Milton – Kelso Conservation Area

The Beachway Park has been safe for swimming for the past six weeks – this report is a change in the condition of the water.

Unfortunately, other than media posting, the public that uses the Beachway Park in Burlington has no way of knowing if the water is safe or unsafe.  There are no signs to indicate the condition of the water.  Unfortunate indeed.


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Michele Benoit postpones Lake Ontario swim to 2013. Support crew problems and weather conditions meant a delay.

 By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON Burlington, ON—Aug. 30, 2012 – Burlington resident Michele Benoit who was scheduled to attempt a 45KM Lake Ontario crossing this summer has had to postpone until 2013.  In an effort to raise awareness and funds for clean water in Africa, Benoit was scheduled to swim 45KM from Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines to Spencer Smith Park in Burlington on August 17, 2012.  Severe, unfavorable weather and water conditions forced the swimmer to reschedule and re-plan for a new date.

“Open water swimming is one of the most unpredictable sports around due to the reliance on the conditions” says Benoit.  “You can plan and be completely prepared to attempt a crossing, but if the weather and water do not cooperate, it’s completely out of your control”.

Lots of pool time this winter for Michele Benoit as she turns her energy and determination to being ready for a 2013 attempt to swim from Port Dalhousie to Burlington as a fund raising event for Waves for Water, a charity that wants to build systems in Africa that will provide fresh water.

And this is what Ms. Benoit has had to accept.  “I have done everything possible to make my attempt for 2012 but between unfavorable conditions and unavailability of boats and crew at the end of the season, I have to set my sights on next year.”

With the water and the air getting a lot colder now, the focus will be on a new year of training, planning and continuing to raise awareness and funds for clean water in undeveloped countries.  “I will be back in 2013 strong, ready and determined to raise as much money as I can for clean water in Africa. “

Ms. Benoit started Waves for Water to help those in need.  Her choice to do a swim of this magnitude was to raise awareness and funds and spread the message of ‘Making Waves for Water’ big or small.  “This swim has never been about Benoit – it was about how an event can champion a cause”.  A new date will be announced in the Spring of 2013.

Maybe Burlington will be able to stand on the pier and watch Benoit arrive at the small beach to the west of the pier currently under construction.  The city still talks of it being “open” in the spring of 2013 and if the weather holds that just might be possible.

“I would like to thank my family, my team and everyone who was so incredibly supportive,” Benoit said.  “Be ready!  I plan to return next year for a successful crossing!”

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City awarded a bronze medal for being friendly to bicycles. Now we need ways to make cars and bicycles friends as well.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON   Aug. 26.  2012-   Last week Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster was in Ottawa as a city delegate to the Association of Municipalities annual convention and while there accepted the Bicycle Friendly Community bronze medal award on behalf of the city.

Burlington was awarded the bronze rating by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, an Ontario-based non-profit organization that promotes bicycling as a mode of transportation, recreation and fitness through provincial advocacy.

The Regional Police use bicycles on a regular basis as part of the way they do their work. Are there any other civic employees using bicycles?

Burlington has gone some distance in making the city a more cycle friendly place – in this instance the city is ahead of its citizens.  In June and July the city held two Car Free Sundays at which the turnout was less than expected.  To the surprise of many the event on Appleby Line had a considerably better turn out than the event held on Brant Street.   It was clear to many that the idea needed a re-think.

The Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) Program, an initiative of the Washington-based League of American Bicyclists, was launched in Canada in August 2010 by Share the Road. The program provides incentives, hands-on assistance, and award recognition for communities that actively support bicycling.  Municipalities are judged in five categories often referred to as the Five “E’s” engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation and planning.  A community must demonstrate achievements in each of the five categories in order to be considered for an award.

The city did a photo op in May to promote the idea of cycling to work – threw in a free breakfast for those that showed up. It wasn’t a large crowd. Councillor Dennison is the only serious and sincere cyclist on Council. Bike rack at city hall is seldom full – parking spaces at city hall are well used however – they’re free. Beats a free breakfast.

“We have a lot to be proud of,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “Over the last number of years the City of Burlington has committed to adding to our cycling-friendly infrastructure throughout the city. We have increased the number of kilometres of bike lanes and paths and made on-road cycling safer with the installation of signage, buffered and coloured lanes and sharrows. This award also recognizes the work we have done in education and awareness.”

“This award is a reflection of the hard work of city staff and our community leaders,” said Scott Stewart, general manager of development and infrastructure. “I encourage more residents to make the safe and healthy choice of cycling.”

A key focus of the city’s strategic plan, Burlington, Our Future, is increasing the number of people who cycle in the city for both recreation and transportation.

Burlington approved a Cycling Master Plan in 2009.  This plan guides the city’s efforts in creating a network of on-road bikeways and multi-use pathways as well as providing policies, practices and programs to encourage more people to cycle.

Burlington has 49 km of bike lanes, 22.5 km of bike boulevards, 19 km of shared use paths and 20.7 km of multi-use paths.  Bicycle racks are available at all city facilities and public art bike racks have been installed in the downtown. Bike racks are also mounted on the front of all Burlington Transit buses.

Increasing its cycling infrastructure is just part of the task: work in the areas of education and awareness continue.

The Burlington Sustainable Development Committee and Burlington Central Library are hosting an active transportation seminar; Get it in Gear, on Oct. 18th,from  7 to 9 p.m.  The city has a Green Transportation Map –  outlining transit routes, trails and tourism destinations in Burlington, available at the Tourism office on Brant Street.

Burlington was up for a pre-Olympic cycling competition but the opportunity got away from us. Maybe in the future?

Burlington got a sense of what was possible when it took a hard look at the idea of holding pre-Olympic elite level races that would have resulted in a jam packed Canada Day.  That idea didn`t fly due to problems with the promoter – but we got a clear sense of what was possible.  At some point the city will meet up with the right promoter and we will perhaps see elite cycle racing in the community.

In the meantime the cycling infrastructure keeps being added to and more and more roadways are truly bicycle accessible.  Hopefully sooner rather than later the city will devote some time and money figuring out how to make the stretch of roadway from Mainway to Fairview bicycle friendly – that for Burlington is the real challenge at Walkers Line and Appleby Line as well.  It is what creates that big divide between the Burlington north of the QEW and the Burlington south of the QEW – and until we resolve that one we won`t be united as a city.  When that problem is solved – we could win gold!

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The team is in place, most of the equipment is in hand, the Mayor is tweeting for her – Benoit is basically ready to swim across Lake Ontario.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 13, 2012  The pint sized lady who is going to swim Lake Ontario from Port Dalhousie to Burlington this Friday and Saturday, is at that frenzied stage;  trying to get it to that “it’s all together now” stage.  Michele Benoit isn’t there yet.

The hard, day in day out training is behind her – if she isn’t in top shape physically now – she never will be. Her mental condition will be known by this swimmer the moment she slips into the water.

She could use someone with a Zodiac for the trip that will last at least 20 hours.  She has one – she would like a second one.    By the end of the week she will have all the pieces in place and slip into the water Friday evening and begin the solid stroke after stroke that will get her from there to here.

That pixie look hides a very determined woman who has decided to take on Lake Ontario

Making this happen has not been an easy task.  The swim is badly under-funded.  It has had to scrimp and scrape to get the equipment and people needed to make this happen.  But bit by bit – the pieces are falling into place and Benoit continues her daily swims and exercise routines.

Mayor Goldring has been tweeting his audience about the event.  The city is getting ready to set up a small tent to receive Benoit when she comes ashore sometime Saturday afternoon.  The special entrance being put in place to get to the “instant beach” formed on the west side of the under construction pier was moved up in the schedule so Benoit could land there.

They are still working out just where the people who are going to be at Port Dalhousie with her will park their cars once someone brings them back to Burlington.

Stephen Turner is part of the crew serving as the paramedic.  Billy Johnson and Joe Atikian will drive the boats. Christine Arsenault is her swim master.   Colleen Shields is one of the pacers as well as a boat driver.

You swim across a lake by putting one arm in the water after the other – with a Lake Ontario swim – you can be doing that for as much as 24 hours. That`s the battle between Michele Benoit and Lake O

As Benoit strokes toward shore there will be a large crowd of people out on the Beachway Park building sand castles and when the word gets to them – they may walk to the other end of the Park and be on hand to greet this unbelievably committed young lady who has been doing media interviews that range from the French CBC radio station to a handful of small Christian based radio program and an interview on 100 Huntley Street.

Benoit brings a strong Christian commitment to the swim – it is not something she is doing just to get her name on a list of people who have swum across the lake.  The swim is the first step in a planned approach to raise funds for an organization that helps people in Africa get fresh water.

Benoit will tell you all you ever want to know about the plight of people in a number of African countries where fresh water – something we take for granted – is a precious and at times hard to come by commodity.

Waves for Water is the charity all this swimming is being done for.  Once the swim is completed – and there is absolutely no doubt in Benoit’s mind that she will complete the swim – in record time?  That’s not something she can tell you.  Everything depends on the weather.  High winds will mean large waves and that means more time – but for Benoit –well she will face what she is given.

Her team is in place – for the most part.  Her Mom and Dad is going to be there as is her sister, niece and nephew, who will handle the land side communications.

Her feeders are in place – these are the people that will get nutrients to her from a cup at the end of a pole.  Matt Smith heads up that task as well as being the crossing coach.   Deborah Arsenault is the nutritionist preparing the feed. Her pacers will be aboard one of the accompanying craft.  During the swim various pacers will be in the water with her to help her keep a steady arm over arm stroke.

It`s a cold forbidding body of water that Benoit will slip into next Friday night. She believes that she is up to the challenge.

Doug Hawksworth will be out there with his sailboat along with members of the family, Chelsea and Candice and Brett White  helping out.

Sue Reed is her crossing manager. Miguel Vadillo will help with the pacing as well as driving the boat which has to have huge lights on it at night so that Benoit is never out of sight.

Geoff Farrow will also pace and drive the boat.

Jessie Douglas will be along as the photographer.

Michael Shaen and sister Kim are land co-ordinators.

Chris Chriswick, Bud Seawright, Nigel Reed and Branko Dren will be part of the crew on the landside of things.

There is a team meeting on Tuesday – the last one before the pace changes and Michele Benoit prepares herself for the challenge – the awesome struggle between her and what she calls Lake O.



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Are we giving people who use Beachway Park the information they need and are entitled to in terms of water safety?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 9, 2012  Water quality at the Burlington Beachway is just fine.  Oakville’s Coronation Park East is still not safe – that’s been that way for some time.

The Halton Region Health Department monitors the water quality at public beaches throughout Halton.  We get the information from the Region and pass it along to our readers.

Many people don’t go near the water when they go to the beach but those who do swim have the right to know the water is safe and that they are personally safe as well. Lifeguards do that job.

Beach water monitoring on August 6 revealed the following beaches are safe for swimming:

Burlington – Beachway Park

Halton Hills – Prospect Park Old Beach

Milton – Kelso Conservation Area

The following beaches are unsafe for swimming:

Oakville – Coronation Park East, Coronation Park West,  Bronte Park Beach.

This is great information if you’re a regular reader of Our Burlington, but alas, not everyone reads what we have to say.

When you walk out to the Beachway there are days when you can see literally hundreds of people enjoying the water.  In the past, when the water was not deemed safe by the Region, the public had no way of knowing the water was not deemed to be safe.

At one point the Region used to divide the Beachway into North and South – with no really clear dividing line between the north and the south.

On a long weekend there are far more people using Beachway Park in Burlington than the number using the beach shown above – we don’t employ lifeguards nor do we post adequate signs to explain the condition of the water. The city owes its public better service on this one.

The Region did provide a map that we posted – but then they discarded the North and South parts and just call it the Beachway – which was fine.

The problem however is that there isn’t any way for those who don’t read Our Burlington to know the water is not safe.  There is a solution.

Do what other jurisdictions do;  Put up signs or put up flags that tell the people what the water condition is.

On those occasions when there are literally hundreds of people using the beach – where are the lifeguards?  It will cost money to hire lifeguards – which the Region or the city will do in a flash the moment there is a drowning.

Time for the city to take a hard look at the way the beach is used by the public and what the city should be providing in the way of safety services.

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Courage, commitment and energy will propel Michele Benoit across Lake Ontario to raise funds for clean water in Africa.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 2, 2012  It takes a certain character, commitment and frame of mind to get up well before the sun rises each day and slip into the cold waters of Lake Ontario.

It takes time, energy and a certain focus to swim day after day while you build up your strength and your stamina as arm goes over arm pulling yourself forward through the water – sometimes against a tide that wants to take you in another direction.

A chase craft follows every foot of the way – watching every move while Michelle Benoit completes a 25 km swim on the old Welland canal with Christine Walker in the water pacing her.

Later this month – Michelle Benoit, a 42 year old nutritionist and personal trainer with a life’s worth of swimming experience, will put herself up against one of the harder challenges in the world of long distance swimmers.  She will leave Port Dalhousie the evening of Saturday the 17th of August and head for Burlington where she plans to land close to 18 hours later on the “instant” beach in the eastern end of Spencer Smith Park.

Our Burlington has been calling  it the  “instant beach”, since the day we saw it while on a tour of the pier construction site while looking for those lamp lights that had disappeared.  The beach was formed due to the way water swirls around the caissons and the land formation built as part of the pier, could well be named Benoit Beach honouring the crossing of the lake.

Toronto has a Marilyn Bell Park to commemorate her successful crossing of the lake; an opportunity here for the Mayor to put a bit of a positive spin on the problems that surround the pier.

Marilyn Bell in 1954 as she swan across Lake Ontario as a 16 year old.

Just over 65 people have managed to successfully swim across Lake Ontario since 1954 when Marilyn Bell, then a 16 year old, completed her swim in 20 hours and 55 minutes on September 8th and 9th.  50,000 Torontonians were on the shore to welcome her landing from her start in Youngstown, Ohio – can Burlington produce even 5,000 people.

Part of the team that follows every stroke: Brian Finlay, on the right,  a master long distance solo swimmer who has done the English Channel, serves at the key guide. Mike Schultz, drives out from his printing company in Toronto every time the boat is needed on the water.  The moment Benoit is out of the water Finlay checks her body temperature to make sure she is recovering from the swim.

Benoit had a magnificent crew working with her while she did the hours of training.  Christine Arsenault, Billie Johnson, Chris Chriswick and others were in the water pacing her through the nine hour day.

There isn’t a day that Benoit is not in the water doing stroke after stroke as she strives to keep her body in top physical form.

After more than nine hours in the water during an endurance swim on the Welland River, Benoit gobbles down a banana and enjoys a laugh with her crew.

Earlier in July she did a 25 km endurance test in the Welland River, a body of water that has both wind to deal with and strong currents.  She swam leg after leg as she piled up the kilometres with different pace swimmers joining her on the journey.  When she completed that endurance test she headed for the dock where she pulled herself up out of the water and sat shivering on the deck while her pacer heaved to hoist herself out of the water – but not quite hard enough and slipped back in.  That was a funny moment for the less than half of dozen people out to help during the test.

As a nutritionist Benoit knows how to care for her body and ensure that she is getting the protein she needs.  While she is just a slip of a thing she has amazing physical strength; but it is her strength of mind that carries her forward. For Benoit this swim is as much a personal calling as it is a swim across an unforgiving body of water.  She is not a “professional solo long distance swimmer.  She has a mission and that is to raise both money and awareness for what she sees as a tragic situation in Africa – Togo to be specific, where tens of thousands of children die every year because the water they drink and use is contaminated.

Benoit has partnered with Compassion Canada, an organization that can issue tax receipts and ensure that the donation goes to the project they were meant to support – water projects in Togo Africa.

While Compassion Canada serves as the organization that can accept funds, issue tax receipts and ensure they get where they were supposed to go – Benoit’s Waves for Water is her longer term project.

It is going to cost close to $20,000 to get the work done needed in Togo and that doesn’t deter this almost tiny woman with a smile that charms and energy that is infectious.

Benoit sees challenges as opportunities.  When she was completing her endurance swim in Lake Ontario a few weekends ago she had difficulty getting to the shore – not because she was tired or the waves were too high..  “We couldn’t  see the shore line – there were too many motor boats and Seadoos racing by.  They had no idea what we were doing but we knew what they were doing – getting in the way.”

When the solo swim across the lake is done Benoit will then begin working on the next phase of her mission – and that is to create a charity that will be called “Laps for Loonies” which will be held across the country – much like the Terry Fox run – to raise awareness about the problem with water in many African countries and to raise funds as well to build water solutions for these people.

Benoit chose to swim form Port Dalhousie to Burlington rather than the traditional Niagara to Toronto route. “Burlington is home and I wanted to land in the community where I am asking people to support an important project” explains Benoit.  She has partnered with Compassion Canada so that all funds donated go directly to the project in Africa.

What MIchele Benoit is setting out to do is a challenge but it is also poetic – her body is at one with nature as she strokes through the water – here she is working her way through a 25km swim with a pacer in the water with her – the sun on their bodies as they swim in unison.

After most of the day in the water Benoit shivers on the dock on the Welland River, waiting for blankets and for people to check her body temperature.

Benoit works part time for a health services company in Burlington and at the same time trying to breathe some life into her nutritional supplements business. “That’s something I may have to give up on” says Benoit, “I’ve been at that one for ten years and it may be one of those things that just wasn’t meant to be.”

Michele Benoit with her dog Buckley – he goes wherever she goes but he won’t be in Lake Ontario when she does her across the Lake swim. Expect him to be on hand when she comes ashore at Spencer Smith Park.

Financially – life is a challenge.  The swimming takes up all her time but the rent has to be paid and she has to eat so she works at something that fits in with her approach to life and her demanding schedule.

Throughout it all Benoit has her family supporting her emotionally as well as her dog Buckley, who misses her when she is out of the house but who is definitely not going to swim along beside her.

When Benoit comes ashore there will be a large crowd, maybe someone from the Mayor’s Office, television crews and all kinds of media.  There will also be an ambulance standing close by – a requirement if the swim was to be sanctioned and also a sign that solo swimmers are at significant personal risk.




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You can swim anywhere you want on the Burlington waterfront – can’t do that in Oakville.

By Staff

The Halton Region Health Department monitors the water quality at public beaches throughout Halton and they are saying that based on July 31st monitoring.

If you live in Burlington – the Beaches are all safe. Oakville isn’t as lucky.

For the most recent information, the Health Department recommends that residents visit Halton Region’s website before visiting Halton beaches. The following beaches are safe for swimming:

•       Burlington – Beachway Park

•       Halton Hills – Prospect Park Old Beach

•       Milton – Kelso Conservation Area

•       Oakville – Coronation Park East, Bronte Park Beach

The following beaches are unsafe for swimming:

•       Oakville – Coronation Park West

Now you know why Burlington is the second safest city in Canada.

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Burlington athlete advances to Olympic semi-finals in back stroke. Sinead Russell shows her stuff

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  July 29, 2012   Burlington has three native citizens in the 2012 Olympics..

Burlington’s Sinead Russell comes out of her start in fine form during the semi finals for backstroke event. (Photo courtesy Ian Macnicol/Swimming Canada

Sinead Russell advanced  to the semi-finals in the women’s 100 backstroke at the 2012 Olympic Games.

She will compete in the finals if she qualifies in Monday and Tuesday.


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