By Donna McMillan
Annaleise Carr never gave up.
She entered Lake Erie off Long Point at 11:37 p.m. Sunday night and landed on shore in Port Dover 12 hours and 12 minutes later, completing the Lake Erie crossing that she had started in July.
It was a heroine’s welcome she came home to on Monday with well over a thousand people on the pier and at the foot of Walker Street to cheer her in. With Canadian flags flying, there were more than a few tears in the crowd as the 16-year-old made good on her promise to finish her swim and help raise more money and awareness for Camp Trillium, the camp for children with cancer and their families on the edge of Waterford. She walked ashore amid hundreds of voices calling her name and cheering.
At the finish of her swim, it was announced over the PA system that Annaleise’s swim pledges raised $193,000. That word was responded to with loud applause. The $200,000 mark, her goal, is expected to be reached.
The weather delayed her original start time on the weekend. But, Annaleise, her crew of volunteers, musician Duane Rutter, fellow musicians and Annaleise’s many supporters were undeterred.
She returned to high school on Tuesday, happy that she had completed some unfinished summer business. Annaleise set out to swim the great lake from Erie, Pennsylvania to Port Dover, a distance of 75 km, July 25th. Weather and water conditions forced her to finish at Long Point, giving her the honour of being the youngest person to swim across the middle of Lake Erie.
But, that wasn’t good enough. Just moments after finishing her swim on Monday, Annaleise said she wanted to finish this swim to show kids at Camp Trillium that everything is possible and to never give up.
She told the audience at the finish that this swim was a lot easier, with the wind helping to push her towards Port Dover this time.
Dad Jeff told The Maple Leaf, as the family watched from shore, that Annaleise doesn’t want her family to be out on the lake on boats with her during the swim. “She says she goes through some pretty hard stuff. And, we would want her to get out.”
This swim turned out to be a best-case scenario in terms of conditions.
MP Diane Finley presented Annaleise with a letter of congratulations at the finish from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Also, she gave the swimmer a scroll that indicated the Canadian flag, flying above the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill on Monday, September 1, will be presented to Annaleise at a later date.
MPP Toby Barrett and Mayor Dennis Travale were also on hand to offer official congratulations. Toby quoted Winston Churchill’s shortest speech … “Never, never, never, give up”. Annaleise did not.
The heroine was escorted to two waiting antique fire trucks for the traditional Port Dover champion’s ride in town. She boarded the Vittoria Fire Truck (near her home in Walsh) and the Port Dover truck followed.
In 2012, Annaleise set a record as the youngest swimmer to cross Lake Ontario, raising $250,000 for Camp Trillium. As people in the crowd on Port Dover beach Monday heard the congratulatory politicians say, “she is an inspiration to all”.