A Chestermere senior and his family are hoping that a donation of a new accessible kayak slip will make it easier for everyone to enjoy water activities safely on Chestermere Lake - no matter their age.
The generous donation was made possible by 87-year-old resident John Timmermans so John could share his love of kayaking with the community and honour his late wife's memory.
The new slip is designed to hold a kayak, paddleboard or canoe stable in the water so the user can climb in and out safely. While secured to the dock, boaters can use the sturdy handles to situate themselves before taking off. The slip is more manageable than climbing in off the shore or while in the water.
Being in a kayak keeps John active, and more importantly, it reconnects him to a time when he'd take Donna, his wife of 54 years, on long paddles around the lake.
After retiring, John and his wife moved in with their daughter and son-in-law, Laura Timmermans and Ian Warrack, who lived on the lake. While looking for options to keep them active and busy, she suggested they try kayaking. John immediately fell in love with the sport, but his wife wanted nothing to do with it. Since John didn't know how to swim, Donna would instead sit on the shore of their lakefront home for hours, keeping an eye on him and waiting for him to return safely.
It took some persuading and the purchase of a double kayak, but Donna finally gave in. John would take Donna out on the water, and together they spent their golden years keeping active while exploring Chestermere Lake. As Donna's dementia progressed, John would take her out multiple times a day to keep her engaged, as she'd forgotten the day's earlier trips. But John didn't mind. He loved to be out on the cool water, in the sunshine, with his bride.
Since her passing, he paddles on almost every day and keeps her memory alive. He pulls on his red life jacket (complete with safety whistle) and rolls his matching red kayak from his apartment at the Bay Club to Chestermere's waterfront, ready for his daily float around the lake.
Without this new slip, continuing on this heartfelt tradition would be difficult for John.
"As he's getting older, dad is having more difficulty getting into and out of his kayak, so I thought the launch might be a way of helping him," says Laura Timmermans, John's daughter. "Dad can be a good example, and he can show others how it's done safely. We hope this new launch encourages others of all ages to join him".
Laura passionately advocates for her father and his well-being, adding that "if I can get as many people out with him as I can, I am comforted to know there are more people who know about him and can watch out for him."
Now that the newly donated accessible kayak slip is installed and ready for use, John can confidently float on, unassisted.
Lake users can find the slip on the north side of the floating dock at John Peak Park. Anyone is welcome to use it free of charge. Just remember to spare a thought about John and Donna as you do.