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Lots of fears to overcome when preparing to swim from New Brunswick to P.E.I.


On Sunday, more than 40 swimmers will take part in the Big Swim, a 14-kilometre crossing from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, which is a fundraising event for Brigadoon Village in Annapolis Valley. In this 2014 photo, Steuart Martens of Washington, D.C., was the first swimmer to complete the crossing. - File
On Sunday, more than 40 swimmers will take part in the Big Swim, a 14-kilometre crossing from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, which is a fundraising event for Brigadoon Village in Annapolis Valley. In this 2014 photo, Steuart Martens of Washington, D.C., was the first swimmer to complete the crossing. - File

A 13-year-old Halifax boy is taking the plunge as he attempts to swim across the Northumberland Strait for the first time on Sunday.

Taylor Hollett will join more than 40 swimmers for the 14-kilometre crossing from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island for the ninth Big Swim, a fundraising event for Brigadoon Village in the Annapolis Valley.

But Hollett, who swims for the Canada Games Centre swim academy, is getting his feet wet in more ways than one.

“I usually do sprints, so this is a lot different,” he said. “I’m really nervous, but also really excited.”

Yvette LeBlanc, Hollett’s mother, said her son came home from school one day and said he wanted to try the Big Swim.

“My concern was my 13-year-old boy is going to swim across the Strait,” LeBlanc said of when she first heard of the idea.

“But he’s the type of guy though that’s pretty determined .... Once he puts it in his mind he’s going to work really hard toward that goal. So we said OK.”

Hollett has been swimming in lakes and practising long-distance swims to prepare for the Big Swim. He also attends practices with other participants.

“When he goes to practices, he’s the young guy there. Like, everybody else is driving there, but Taylor has to go with his mom and dad,” LeBlanc said with a laugh.

Hollett said since signing up for the event, he’s met a few people who have swum across the Strait in recent years.

“I don’t know what to expect,” he said, “but everybody I talk to says seeing the bridge from underneath is the best part of the swim.”

Jennifer McKay agreed.

“You’re looking out to your left or your right, depending on where you go in, and you see this huge bridge and you’ve never seen anything that big,” said McKay, who’s done the swim once before.

“It’s daunting and extraordinary all at the same time.”

McKay, 36, of Cole Harbour, swam across the Strait in less than five hours in 2013 when she first participated in the Big Swim.

She tried again in 2016, but the event was rerouted because of weather, and again in 2017, but the event was cancelled because of poor weather.

“I’d love to get another successful crossing under my belt,” McKay said.

The crossing has its challenges, she said, but they’re mostly mental.

“I discovered out in the middle of the Strait that I have a very big fear of being eaten by sharks, apparently, so I had to overcome some panic attacks,” McKay said.

“I mean for every swimmer, there’s a mental aspect you have to overcome.”

But it’s all worth it once you set foot on Prince Edward Island, she said.

“There’s just this wave of emotions and all of your accomplishments rolled into one, but you also think, ‘I’m never getting back in the water again,’” McKay laughed.

Next year, McKay said she will most likely sit out the Big Swim as a participant, but hopes to volunteer with

GiveToLive, the volunteer organization that puts on the Big Swim, the Big Ride and the Big Chill.

Big Swim swimmers will enter the water at Cape Jourimain, N.B., around

9 a.m. on Sunday and swim to Borden-Carleton, P.E.I.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Big Swim had raised more than $140,000 of its $150,000 goal. Donations can be made at www.givetolive.ca.

Brigadoon Village offers a wide range of camps designed for children facing physical and mental-health issues, such as Camp See-Ya (vision-impaired), Camp Braveheart (cardiac conditions), Camp Lots-a-Wata (kidney disease) and Camp Kedooopse (bereavement).

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