This #GivingTuesday, reflect on what clean water means to you. Will you help to protect our rivers?

Water brings us together. Will you help protect it? This inspiring story from Maddie Perrault makes the case for protecting our waterways for future generations.

Written by Maddie Perrault, Ottawa Riverkeeper intern through the the RBC Career Launch program.

Do I jump? My young self perches on a ledge of the smallest rock, having clambered down into a neat crack so near to the surface of the water I could probably graze it with my toes if I were a little taller. I’m at a popular set of jumping rocks at Killbear Provincial Park, surrounded by family and new friends. I’m equipped with my trusty Coleman lifejacket, and I’m peering into what is a truly glorious body of water. But I peer into that water, from my spot on the ledge, for a long time. My best friend Abbey points to a shimmering glint far out in Georgian Bay and tells me it represents my bravery, which is fading. A golden-retriever, also in a trusty lifejacket, makes the same jump without hesitation. I am not convinced. A tuckamore tree to the left of me bends inward, windswept away from the water and down towards the safety of the rock. I kind of get how it feels. But I have an audience, and they want me to succeed. They offer encouragement. They describe how refreshing the water is, and try to splash me from where they bob below. Despite my hesitation, I am keen to be bobbing too. I peer over the ledge one final time, and I jump. Just before I connect with the water, I’m treated to a chorus of cheers.

Fast-forward 10 years and my family has made a tradition of pushing the boundaries of Canadian weather, making our final camping trip of the year over Thanksgiving weekend at Sandbanks Provincial Park. More than 20 of us gather around picnic tables. We’re wearing raincoats. We cook turkey on a camp-grill and warm potatoes over a one-burner stove. My grandparents, who are in their mid-eighties, lovingly agree to eat pumpkin-pie with their toes in the mud. Our weekend concludes with an event fondly known as a turkey-dip – one last swim before winter sets in. Lake Ontario is cold, but for Abbey and me, plunging into water in unlikely circumstances has become a bit of a thing. It is a demonstration of commitment. It declares to onlookers: “We too, love the water”. Abbey grabs my hand and we splash into the lake, red and orange leaves falling behind us.

As luck would have it, my first real career-opportunity introduces me to Ottawa Riverkeeper, an organisation dedicated to protecting the health of the incredible Ottawa River and its tributaries. For me, water has always been a source of community. It only makes sense I end up working with a team who knows this to be true. We share it, we celebrate it, and we certainly swim in it every chance we get. This Giving Tuesday, please consider joining the community of water-lovers and supporting the important work of Ottawa Riverkeeper by making a donation. Your gift will help keep our incredible rivers healthy and safe so we can keep enjoying them (and jumping in them!) for years to come.

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