Making an impact

Dedicated donors are clearing the path to connection. Many trailblazers contribute directly to specific sections of this ambitious project, and we’d like to share a few of their stories.

Blake Hutcheson

Blake Hutcheson and Jack Cockwell
Samantha Erin Photography

Raising thousands of dollars in a single afternoon is no easy feat, but that’s exactly what Blake Hutcheson and the community of Huntsville did in 2017.

“Having grown up in Huntsville and having been fortunate enough to live in the greatest country in the world, I have followed the story of the Trail with interest,” Blake says.

As TCT continued its work towards connection, Blake discovered that the Trail section at Hunter’s Bay was one of the remaining gaps in The Great Trail network. Given the unique landscape of Hunter’s Bay, the only solution was to build a floating pedestrian boardwalk under the local highway.

Joining forces with Jack Cockwell, Honorary Campaign Chair of the Chapter 150 Campaign, and Valerie Pringle, Co-Chair of the TCT Foundation Board, Blake endeavoured to raise $125,000 for the development of the boardwalk. Guests made a gift of $1,000 each, while invitees who could not attend donated $2,000.

“Local citizens and cottagers alike found it in their hearts to celebrate with us and support us,” he said. “When you put the word out in the community, even if the idea is audacious, the community rallies around.”

Thanks to this extraordinary fundraising achievement, the Hunter’s Bay Boardwalk extension is one of the only ‘floating’ trails in Canada and is, according to Blake, “fully complete and magical”.

Colin Deacon

Colin Deacon, Valerie Pringle and Quin Deacon

For Colin Deacon, supporting The Great Trail’s development was something “genetically instilled” in him by his parents.

Colin’s parents were outdoor enthusiasts, and were very involved in the rails-to-trails movement in the 1980s, and were among the Trail’s first supporters in 1992. His father, Donald Deacon, was one of the founders of the Confederation Trail on Prince Edward Island.

“My parents really dreamed of others being able to enjoy what they loved,” Colin recalls. “Whenever there was a new section on Prince Edward Island, they would want us to go explore it with them.”

“I’m so enormously proud of my parents as examples of Canadians who had a vision of a gift that keeps on giving for generations to come,” he adds.

Inspired by his parents’ dedication to developing and nurturing Trails in their area, Colin grew up to become a volunteer, a member of the fundraising committee for Atlantic Canada and a leadership donor.

Given his family’s close links to the Trail, Colin says that national connection is “very much a dream come true”.

“It’s a dream that my mom and dad had a long time ago, and it came to pass because thousands and thousands of Canadians in every community in the country got involved,” he says.

Rodney Briggs

Rodney Briggs

Encouraging Canadians and visitors to connect with the natural world and to discover our country’s landscapes has been a determining factor in Rodney Briggs’ decision to support The Great Trail.

Rodney has given generously towards the development of the Trail as a leadership donor since July 2017.

“Like everyone else, I think the Trail is a wonderful idea,” he says.

For Rodney, the reason for supporting the Trail’s development across Canada is a simple one – to bring Canadians of all ages back to nature.

“We are becoming more disconnected from nature as the world becomes more digital. I think having a trail like this provides easy access to go out and enjoy the world around us,” he explains.

“When you have a young family, for example, it’s easy to get on the Trail near you,” he adds.

Rodney believes the recent connection of the Trail will also help to boost domestic tourism while attracting more international visitors to Canada.

“I think it provides an opportunity to see more of Canada, to do the Trail in Manitoba – my home province – or in Newfoundland,” he says. “Knowing that the Trail is there will encourage us to see more of our country.”

Based in British Columbia, Rodney enjoys the Trail near the Capilano River whenever he has time. However, he hopes to experience other Trail sections across the country soon.

“It’s my goal to do hikes and bikes on the Trail in British Columbia,” he says, adding that he plans to explore the Trail from Squamish to Whistler in the near future.

“I have been looking at the map at the various sections of the Trail, and have been dreaming about seeing more of it.”

Bob and Mary Pat Armstrong

Bob and Mary Pat Armstrong

Bob and Mary Pat Armstrong have been generous supporters of The Great Trail since 1997, when they attended the opening of the newly-installed pavilion on their local Trail section in Ontario.

“The concept of developing a national trail that connected our country was a phenomenal idea, and we were excited that it passed near our home in Caledon,” explains Bob.

“We love to spend time outdoors, and we use the Trail for walking, cycling and cross-country skiing,” says Mary Pat. “We often go with our children and grandchildren.”

In 2012, the Armstrongs generously boosted their giving to the Trail as Governor program donors. They later reaffirmed their support with further donations to connect the Trail in 2016 and 2017.

“It’s nice to leave your country a little better than when you arrived,” says Mary Pat. “And The Great Trail is something from which Canadians will benefit forever.”

The R. Howard Webster Foundation

Foundation Logo

Since its inception, the R. Howard Webster Foundation has been dedicated to connecting the nation by supporting programs or projects for the benefit, improvement and development of Canadian society. Therefore, the Foundation felt that supporting The Great Trail was a natural fit.

“From sea to sea, this Trail allows people to connect themselves,” explains Howard Davidson, President of the Foundation.
The Foundation have been generous donors since 1999, and later pledged an incredible $300,000 gift to support connection for Chief Whitecap Waterway and Elbow View Trail along Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan.

Mr. Davidson also believes the Trail is a “line” that differs from the railways that linked Canada in days gone by – a line that connects us to the environment around us.

“The Trail is about making a park for Canada and that, for the Webster Foundation, is very interesting,” he adds.