Swimming for community spirit, helping ill child

Kayge Fowler, his mother Mandy Fowler and Lorie Yardanoff at Ontario Winter Carnival Bon Soo's Polar Bear Swim at Belleuve Park in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont, on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. (BRIAN KELLY/THE SAULT STAR/POSTMEDIA NETWORK)

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Community spirit keeps Brent Dinter jumping into ice-cold water.

The apprentice plumber at DNM Plumbing and Heating made his third appearance at Ontario Winter Carnival Bon Soo’s Polar Bear Swim on Sunday.

The Korah Collegiate and Vocational School graduate likes to support Sault Ste. Marie events.

It just makes us tighter as a community,” when residents get involved in community activities, he said after registering for the afternoon event at Bellevue Park.

The swim also gives him a chance to “start talking” to other solo participants in the warm-up tent, “make a new friend,” and jump in the water with his new acquaintance.

He was grateful for calm weather conditions, with just a hint of snow and, with the wind chill, – 14 C.

Perfect weather,” said Dinter. “It’s good weather for it.”

If Dinter keeps coming out to the Bon Soo marquee event, he may reach the double digits like Bill Vanderleest. The goaltending coach of Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Soo Eagles has done 15 swims over about 30 years.

Just like Dinter, he likes to get involved in what’s going on in the city.

It’s just fun,” said Vanderleest. “It’s nice to be part of the community … I think Bon Soo is one of the unique things we have going on up here in Sault Ste. Marie and you’ve got to support it when you’ve got a chance to.”

The former goalie reckons taking a frosty plunge in February is also a good way of keeping up the ecletic behaviour associated with puck stoppers. Two of his team’s netminders, Joseph Bendetto and Shane Brancato, jumped in too.

Johanna Peattie milked her first swim for all it was worth. She wore a cow costume, a gag gift from her friends.

We wanted to do something that would be memorable,” she said, noting a friend did the swim in 2018 dressed as Ted, the teddy bear that comes to life in the 2012 comedy with Mark Wahlberg.

Peattie was also grateful for the head-to-toe coverage.

It’s a lot warmer than being in a bathing suit, that’s for sure,” she said.
When she was taking part in Esquire Club’s Catch the Ace draw last summer, Lorie Yardanoff was hopeful the winners, from the weekly prizes to the jackpot, would consider earmarking some cash to help Kayge Fowler. The Sault youngster has a brain tumour.

Sunday was Yardanoff’s first swim. She decided she’d raise cash to help Fowler’s family. He’s a student at St. Basil Catholic School where she works as an educational assistant. She raised $3,551. Fellow EA Darlene Cameron collected almost $700 for Paul and Mandy Fowler who are seeking treatment for their son in Mexico.

Yardanoff’s initial goal appealing to family and friends was $200. That target was revised several times with dollars raised marching past an updated $3,000 goal.

I didn’t think it would take off,” she said.

As long as (Kayge) fights, I fight,” said Yardanoff. “This little guy is my main man. He always has been and he knows it.”

Mandy Fowler called Yardanoff’s tally “incredible.”

A major fundraiser gave her family “a little bit of a cushion,” for the $17,000 they need each month to cover treatments, transportation, accommodation and medication. The Fowlers have three weeks to hit that five-figure goal for February.

This is definitely going to help us get there,” she said. “We really appreciate it.”

The Fowlers are petitioning the federal government to create a national DIPG (brain tumour) awareness day.

We’re hoping to raise awareness so that maybe in Canada in the future other families will be able to have resources here instead of having to come up with that kind of money,” said Mandy.

She’s contacted other families across Canada who’ve lost sons or daughters to a brain tumour or, like Kayge, are fighting the abnormal growth.

I figure the more people that I rally together, the more likely we are to have something that will stick,” said Mandy.

She and her husband have started Kayge Fighters Against DIPG Foundation. They want to help other families starting in Algoma District with plans to expand to Northern Ontario, Ontario and then nationally.

Cameron and Yardanoff contributed to a second drive at St. Basil’s to help Fowler and a Grade 8 student, who was not named, who has brain cancer. Eleven staff, including teachers and a pair of Child Care Algoma workers, raised pledges and did the weekend swim.

Our school wants to support the families,” said Hannah Lettieri, a kindergarten teacher who had Fowler in her class last year.

Lettieri was still accepting donations at the downtown park leading up to the Bon Soo event.

More help for the two Saints is coming up Friday with a dance for students in Grades 6 to 8.

The whole school is behind these families,” said Lettieri.

The swim drew 95 participants with participants coming from as far away as Finland, France and Mexico.

btkelly@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @Saultreporter

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