It was a tragic accident that grabbed headlines in the middle of last summer’s holidays: a transport truck smashed a minivan from behind amidst a multi-vehicle crash near Falmouth. In the van were a mother, her two daughters and a boy named Evan, who was a friend of the family. The crash sent all four to hospital, with Evan and one of the young girls going straight to the IWK. The girl survived, but Evan succumbed to his injuries. He was six.
Ian Dawson, the father of the two young girls in the van, was overwhelmed by the support the two families received in the days on and after the crash. He says countless people, including doctors, nurses and volunteers, helped them through every step they had to face, from social work and pastoral care to organ donation and intensive care.
Months later, he decided he wanted to help the renowned children’s hospital continue its mission. “When we ended up there in difficult circumstances, I realized the ways they are capable of helping families,” Dawson says. “It amazed me how all-encompassing and holistic this organization is for the families who need it.”
So Dawson decided to take his love of the water and use it to give back. Inspired by a Labour Day event out of the Bedford Basin Yacht Club (BBYC) where he races on Wednesday nights during the summer, the lifelong sailor and naval architect decided to organize a pursuit race that would see boats racing from the BBYC, through the Bedford Basin and to the MacKay Bridge. Slower boats would start with the faster ones following. The winner would get bragging rights as winner as well as a trophy named after Evan. Each boat would raise money to enter, with the funds going to the IWK.
Dawson approached the IWK Health Centre Foundation for approval to organize an event with the proceeds going to the hospital. They approved the pitch and the race called Make Waves for the IWK is set for September 27 at the BBYC.
The group made its official launch at the Halifax International Boat Show in February where Dawson, who is serving as chair, presented the concept. The details are being organized by a committee of eight volunteers, including Alyson Murray, a local public relations specialist and fellow sailor and racer with Dawson at BBYC. The event is quickly gaining attention from Sail Nova Scotia, local and regional yacht clubs, including those on the South Shore and Shediac, N.B., plus residents of Bedford. Getting that attention from beyond Bedford is important, Dawson says, because the reach of the IWK is enormous.
“It’s a regional hospital; it doesn’t matter what community you’re in,” Dawson says. “If you’re in the Maritimes, there are very few people who haven’t been touched by the IWK in some way.”
Dawson says the race will be visible from DeWolf Park where they hope to set up a shore-side event for families and community members.
Geoffrey Milder, a development officer with the IWK Foundation, says he loved the idea immediately and was inspired by Dawson’s passion, the collective work of a group of volunteers and the communities in Bedford and in sailing that both rallied behind the idea from the start. Milder was so inspired, he decided to sit on the committee in an advisory capacity.
“If there is any fundraiser that has the potential to grow beyond its initial planning, and to become something much bigger than what it initially set out to do, this holds exceptional potential for that,” Milder says. “Ian’s passion has really captured the imagination and the hearts of a community we have never reached out to. And yet, it’s a community that many of the constituents that receive care at the IWK are engaged in. And if there’s two things that aren’t more Maritimes than sailing and fundraising or supporting your community, I don’t know what is.”
While Milder says his goal is to be successful this first year of the event, he expects good things next year and beyond: “They may have an outstanding, outstanding opportunity to drive revenue for the IWK Foundation,” Milder says. “It’s very exciting, partly because of the untapped market, but also because of the location. It’s going to be based in Bedford that gives it a unique effort to support the efforts of the IWK.”
“Evan was a super loving, funny kid,” Dawson fondly recalls. “He would keep our family in stitches.” Dawson also remembers Evan’s love of blueberries, and so all of the branding for the event is done in blue to honour Evan’s taste for the summer berry.
“His parents are convinced he’d be floored,” says Dawson speculating on Evan’s response to Making Waves.
Beyond remembering Evan, Dawson says this event is more than a big thank you to the IWK for its collective kindness and work during the families’ time of need. “This is to enable the IWK to continue its great work,” Dawson says. “It’s as simple as that.”