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BEYOND EXPECTATIONS: Fishermen donating more than $600,000 – and counting – to charities and causes through Live Well Challenge

Josh Link goes under while taking the Live Well Challenge aboard the Cameron and Girls at the Newellton wharf last week. KATHY JOHNSON
Josh Link goes under while taking the Live Well Challenge aboard the Cameron and Girls at the Newellton wharf last week. KATHY JOHNSON

SOUTHWESTERN, N.S. – The Live Well Challenge continues to exceed expectations, with people taking the plunge in one way or another in southwestern Nova Scotia and beyond, raising in excess of half a million dollars for numerous charities and causes in just over a week.

And the dollar amount continues to climb steadily as people continue to take the plunge and nominate others to do the same.


Cape Sable Island fisherman Todd Newell’s challenge to fellow fishing captains and crew in LFAs 33 and 34 to donate $1,000 to charity and take a dip in the bone-chilling waters of a live well on a lobster boat is gaining momentum.
Cape Sable Island fisherman Todd Newell’s challenge to fellow fishing captains and crew in LFAs 33 and 34 to donate $1,000 to charity and take a dip in the bone-chilling waters of a live well on a lobster boat is gaining momentum.

The Live Well Challenge was initiated by Cape Sable Island fisherman Todd Newell on Jan. 17 on social media as a way to help the families of the Pubnico Head house fire that claimed the lives of four children, and to also help other local charities, causes and organizations.

He had hoped to get 100 other fishing captains to take part, videotaping their dips into the icy waters of a live well on their boats and each donating $1,000 to a charity of their choice. Live wells are water tanks used to store lobster catches on boats.

“I never expected to get this big,” said Newell just over a week into the challenge. “I was confident we would raise $100,000, but to get this far, I never expected it.”

In addition to supporting the families of the Pubnico Head fire tragedy, donations have been made to countless charities and causes, including local school playground funds, the Rosalin Nickerson CARE Fund, the (Baby) Clara Bradley Fund, the Gilles Boudreau and Friends Cancer Help Fund, the Carmen Faith Memorial Fund, breakfast programs, churches, fire departments and to help people battling cancer or dealing with other serious medical issues, to name a few.

THE PLUNGES

From jumping into live wells on boats, to taking a dive off the top of a wheelhouse or the stern of a boat into the local harbour, to backflips into an onshore lobster holding tank, fishermen, lobster dealers, lobster plant workers, local businesses, teenagers and children – people from all walks – have been taking the plunge and donating to charities, with one dip taking place as far away as Australia, where those involved with Cape Island Marine Survey took a plunge into a pool in support of those doing the challenge back in this region – albeit, their water was significantly warmer than it has been for those taking the plunge here in the midst of winter.

Cole “Biscuit” Nickerson dries off while fellow Live Well Challenge dipper Josh Link smiles at a comment after taking the plunge aboard the Cameron and Girls at the Newellton wharf. KATHY JOHNSON
Cole “Biscuit” Nickerson dries off while fellow Live Well Challenge dipper Josh Link smiles at a comment after taking the plunge aboard the Cameron and Girls at the Newellton wharf. KATHY JOHNSON

Fishermen watch and videotape a live well dip aboard the Cameron and Girls at the Newellton wharf last week. KATHY JOHNSON
Fishermen watch and videotape a live well dip aboard the Cameron and Girls at the Newellton wharf last week. KATHY JOHNSON

Fishermen who don’t have live wells have jumped into fish boxes filled with icy water. Or they’ve jumped off wharves. Some have put their own spin on the challenge, diving into swimming pools, getting hosed down in a car wash, even splashing into a bubble bath, all for fun and charity.

The videos of the plunges, nominations and explanations of the charities being supported are being posted on Facebook. Due to the large volume of videos being posted as hundreds and hundreds of people were taking the challenge, a page called ‘Live Well Challenge Take the Plunge Videos’ group was created to showcase the videos.

And with some fishermen nominating others from outside of the region, the reach of the challenge will continue to expand.

In addition to those doing the challenge here, nominations to others to take the challenge have been made to fishermen and businesses in Atlantic Canada and the northeastern U.S. and to fishing captains on the TV reality series Deadliest Catch and Wicked Tuna. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been nominated to take the plunge.

“It makes me feel proud,” said Todd Newell. “That’s the only way I can describe it. I’ve had a smile on my face for a week now. It’s been awesome.

“A lot of people have had fun with it and a lot of people have enjoyed watching it,” he said, referring to the videos posted to the Facebook.

IN AWE OF SUPPORT

Charities and causes benefiting from the challenge are also in awe of the results.

“Since the beginning of the challenge, we have seen the fund grow by approximately $11,000,” wrote Jennie Huskilson on the Paying It Forward in Memory of Carmen Faith Huskilson Facebook page last week. And that amount continues to climb. The fund was created following the death of her daughter Carmen at the age of 5 in 2016 after years of health issues. At the time of her death Carmen’s parents encouraged others to pay it forward to help others in memory of the little girl.

“We are honoured and very humbled that you would entrust us with your (live well challenge) donation so we can continue to pay it forward in this absolutely amazing community,” wrote Huskilson. “What means even more than anything, though, is that there are so many people that continue to keep Carmen’s memory alive.

“There are many others in our community dealing with heartache and loss and I want them to know that our community is not one where their loss will be forgotten,” said Huskilson. “Say their names, tell their stories, look at their pictures, after all they have helped shape who we all are and how we live our lives. This Live Well Challenge is just more proof that through our sadness and grief, there can be good and love and kindness.”

FAMILY THEMES

The theme of family is a common occurrence in many of the live well plunges with multiple family members taking the plunge – including fishermen with their sons, daughters and even grandchildren and fishing crews made up of generations of the same family onboard.

“I knew it was just a matter of time before I was nominated,” said Philip Pothier in his video posted to the Facebook group. And he said he knew he would nominate his crew to do it with him.

“The reason for that is my crew is my two sons so it’s been a family business that I have,” he said, saying the recent tragedy in Pubnico Head is a reminder of sadness and tragedy that can touch families. “I know as a fishermen it could happen to me as well. Having the whole family aboard one boat it wouldn’t take much.”

In another challenge video, sisters Réjeanne and Arielle d’Entremont were sponsored by their father Robert d’Entremont so they could do the challenge and donate their money to causes that mean a lot to them.

While some of the people doing the challenge sometimes hesitate while getting into the cold water, others jump right in.

Still, the chill of the water gives some people pause for thought. Since fisherman Jimmy Conrad wasn’t doing the plunge himself, he graciously put up a $2,000 donation to go to charities – $1,000 from himself and $1,000 from the Yarmouth Cleaning Ladies, a local residential and commercial cleaning service, which does a lot of work onboard fishing vessels. The women involved with that business did the live well challenge on Conrad’s fishing vessel. However, with a little bit of coaxing – and really, not much was needed – Conrad also took the plunge to delight of everyone onboard as his video shows.

Doing this during the month of January means the water temperatures are pretty cold. That was evident in the video posted by Jody Crook where the challenge took place at Kenney and Ross Ltd.

“We're doing the live well challenge outside in our live well. As you can see we’re a little colder than some of them because we actually have physical ice on top of our surface,” said Crook as someone noted the water temperature was 0.6 degrees Celsius.

“Blanket ready?” one person asked before four of them took the plunge.

Meanwhile, regardless of the challenge method one thing everyone has in common is – with the odd exception – is they don’t stay long in the water after doing the challenge.

“We finished it” Crook said as he and three others climbed out of their live well. “We made it and it was freezing cold.”

Just as the variety of method varies for those who don’t have a live well on their boats, the variety of apparel during the challenges also varies with some people jumping in fully dressed, some in survival suits and life jackets, some in shorts or bathing suits, some in bare feet, others in socked feet.

One fisherman did his plunge wearing lobster pajama pants. An employee of Sweeney’s Funeral Home in Yarmouth took the plunge in a suit, causing someone to post a comment on the video asking if the suit was “wash and wear.”

(WITH FILES BY TINA COMEAU)

A fisherman holds up some cash to add to the donation pot during a Live Well Challenge. KATHY JOHNSON
A fisherman holds up some cash to add to the donation pot during a Live Well Challenge. KATHY JOHNSON

Who is benefiting from the Live Well Challenge? Heres a list of some of the charities, causes and organizations that have been supported. The overall list is much longer.

• Pubnico Head fire families

• Carmen Faith Memorial Fund

• IWK

• School playground funds

• Jaden Muise and family

• Baby Clara Bradley fund

• Rosalin Nickerson CARE Fund

• Gilles Boudreau and Friends Cancer Help Fund

• Breakfast programs

• Individuals fighting cancer

• Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

• Yarmouth Hospital Foundation

• SPCA

• Row for Nanny’s Cure

• ALS Society

• MS Society

• Friends of TNR

• Local churches

• Ronald McDonald House

• Ocean View Academy

• Special Olympics

• Fire departments

• Kidney Foundation

• Memorial bursaries programs

• 4H

• Canadian Cancer Society

• Bell Lets Talk mental health day

• Tri–County Pregnancy Care Centre

• Alzheimers Society of Nova Scotia

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