Cascades Club: Something Special from Just About Nothing
Created October  7, 2011 by Monica Dashwood
En français: www.cascadesclub.ca
The Cascades Club, in Chelsea, Quebec is a successful not-for-profit community organization operating since 1920, serving the Gatineau Hills. Over the last 12 years Cascades has developed an active waterfront program which includes: swimming, summer day camp, and a community-wide paddling program w leisure canoes, sprint canoes & kayaks, war canoe & dragonboats. We've been leasing a 1/3 acre piece of Gatineau River waterfront not far from our land-locked home base.
Based on a series of “found” docks Cascades has built its program entirely from its own resources, with **no outside funding at all**. Assets include a collection of scrounged & donated small boats, 2 dragonboats purchased thru fundraising, 2 garden sheds for PFDs & paddles, an old wedding tent & a seasonal outhouse. But Cascades has managed to inspire limitless personal sweat equity from volunteers, who have contributed thousands of hours to to create, literally, Something Special from Just About Nothing!
Our idea is to obtain funding to secure our 1/3 acre waterfront property so the 800 members, the hundreds reached thru outreach programs and the future generations may enjoy waterfront activities on the river. Volunteers have negotiated a plan to secure our waterfront via a 52 year lease. The required $53K upfront cost, however, is urgently needed and beyond our limited means. We also hope to obtain $42K to build a much needed equipment shelter. We have drawn up plans and qualified volunteers are ready to donate labour to “raise the roof”. Everything is in place, ready to go and no further funds would be needed.
Our mission is to provide “excellence at all levels to all paddlers.” Excellence comes in many different forms. We prioritize community-building through volunteerism, youth development, coach mentorship, and responsible environmental stewardship.
Our volunteers and dragon boats are booked steadily as community work-horses, we:
- Provide boats, coaches for 2 crews of breast cancer survivors
- Support / assist with a dragonboat festival / fundraising event for Centre C.A.R.M.E.N., which provides free services to sick people and their families;
- Provide paddling opportunities to Inuit students and to a youth group from Ottawa’s Somali community so that they may try paddling & enjoy the river;
- Offer our waterfront, youth coaches, and dragonboats for team-building events to local elementary & high schools;
- Host a regional sprint canoe/kayak regatta for youth paddlers (West Que/ East Ont)
- Organize an annual community dragon boat festival open to everyone
Cascades offers a much-loved summer day-camp for children, which integrates the waterfront. Campers learn to swim, paddle and respect the river. To ensure it is accessible to all we keep the fees low, little more than cost-recovery.
Cascades also runs a sprint canoe/kayak program, with lessons & coaching to young children, teens, & adults. Our children enjoy learning about paddling in a variety of boats; canoes, kayaks, war canoes & dragonboats. For our more advanced development and high performance teen paddlers, Cascades follows a long term athlete development model ensuring our athletes are coached in a safe and positive manner. They also benefit from nutritional classes, boat repair & maintenance workshops, environmental impact sessions and year round physical training. All of our programs promote a healthy, active lifestyle, & afford opportunities to build life-long friendships.
Our dragonboat teams are open to anyone in Eastern Ontario & Western Quebec, and have competed successfully in Canada & around the world. This year 10 Cascades paddlers competed at the World Dragon Boat Championships, and won 24 medals between them.
To support our programs, we hire local youth. Cascades is the 2nd largest youth employer in the Gatineau Hills. As camp councilors they learn responsibility, & have opportunities to lead & be role models for young campers. We offer a coach training program to develop youth paddling coaches from within. They learn boat & waterfront safety, how to respect & care for the waterfront, earn boating licenses, learn CPR & first aid skills.
At Cascades, we enjoy the waterfront in a respectful, environmentally sustainable way & strive to be responsible stewards for the proper long-term management of this section of the river. Our children & teens take responsibility for the shoreline, such as clean-up activities in the spring & fall, & keeping the area clean & tidy through the summer.
Historically, the Gatineau River was a major transit corridor, and has been paddled & enjoyed by countless generations. Today, Cascades offers the only paddling program on this iconic river. The connection to a great Canadian river is part of our national psyche; we offer ourselves & our facilities to a wide array of people & causes, whose lives & well-being are enhanced by the opportunity to share in this connection.