KARS-ON-THE-RIDEAU, June 16, 2021 – Birthdays are for having fun, and this year Michel and Philip Charron are making sure people of all abilities can get in on the fun at Baxter Conservation Area.
The twin brothers from Metcalfe, ON turn 10 on June 16. Instead of gifts, they’ve asked their friends and extended family to donate to the Nature For All accessibility campaign at Baxter instead.
The campaign will bring the gold standard of accessibility to the popular hiking and beach spot near the village of Kars. The project aims to upgrade the property’s boardwalks, bridges and facilities to welcome people of all ages and abilities to get outside and connect with nature.
Michel – who goes by Mikey – said it “feels good” to help others access one of his favourite outdoor playgrounds.
“I thought it would be really nice to help people in wheelchairs have a bit of fun, too,” Mikey said.
The conservation area is already broadly accessible, but muddy trails can be an issue for people with mobility devices or strollers, and the marshland bridge has been closed for safety reasons since 2019. Once the bridge is rebuilt, it will allow two people in wheelchairs to pass easily, and large education platforms overlooking the marsh will allow special education classes to more fully participate in Baxter’s outdoor programs. Boardwalk trails will also be much wider, with better grading and slopes to transition easily to stone dust paths.
Recently, Baxter purchased accessible mats for its public beach to allow people with mobility devices to access the Rideau River.
Phil said the beach is his favourite part of the conservation area. He got a chance to see the mats in action earlier this month, and said he was happy to see they go all the way into the water so people with mobility devices can go for a dip.
"I really like helping people because it makes me feel good," said Phil.
Diane Downey is executive director of the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation, which is leading the fundraising campaign. She said the boys' birthday fundraiser is a lovely boost of support.
“We are so honoured the boys have chosen to support this cause, which will bring the joy of nature to people of all abilities across the region,” Mrs. Downey said. “The generosity of these two young men, especially on their birthdays, is really heartwarming.”
This is the sixth year the brothers will be raising money in lieu of birthday gifts. The tradition began in 2016 on their fifth birthday, when they were watching the Fort MacMurray fires consume the houses – and toys – of other Canadian children. They offered to mail their own toys to the children, but their mother Tara suggested they ask their friends to donate to the Red Cross instead of buying a birthday gift. They agreed, and that year they raised $600 for Fort Mac victims.
They’ve never looked back, each year choosing a different birthday cause. In 2017 they helped victims of the historic Ottawa River flood, and since then have supported Earth Rangers, No One Left Behind (through Scouts Canada) and Jump Rope for Heart – raising a total of $2,134 to date.
They hope to raise $100 for Nature For All this year, mindful that the global pandemic has been financially difficult for some.
To donate to Michel and Philip’s birthday fundraiser, visithttps://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/11994 and choose their fundraiser from the drop-down list.
To access some fun scavenger hunts and nature bingo activities created in honour of their birthday, visit the Girl Gone Good Facebook page.