On August 30 Marilyn Korzekwa will attempt to swim the 32 kilometres from the shores of California’s Santa Catalina Island to the southern mainland of Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Korzekw

Taking a plunge for Good Shepherd Centre

  • August 3, 2013

While many Canadians will start a relaxing long weekend on Aug. 30, Marilyn Korzekwa will dive into the waters of the Pacific Ocean to begin her swim across California’s Catalina Channel in support of the Good Shepherd Centre in Hamilton, Ont.

The 52-year-old psychiatrist at Hamilton’s St. Joseph’s Hospital hopes to not only become the oldest Canadian to make the 32-km crossing, but in the process raise $10,000 for the Good Shepherd Centre.

“The Good Shepherd has a lot of wonderful programs in Hamilton that benefit my patients,” she said. “I’ve been working closely with the Good Shepherd over the last few years and I think they need the money.”

The Good Shepherd Centre is best known as a homeless shelter in Hamilton but also offers a number of other services for people in need.

A life-long swimmer, Korzekwa first began using her talent to raise money for the Good Shepherd Centre in 2011 when she swam across the English Channel, pulling in more than $6,000. Not only did she become the oldest Canadian woman to complete the 40-km swim, in 16 hours and 40 minutes, she was also awarded the Van Audenaerde Endurance Cup from the Channel Swimming Association for the most difficult feat of endurance that year.

Since then she has become the oldest woman to complete the 20-kilometre swim around Key West, Florida, has participated in the Swim for the Cure and this June raised more than $1,300 for the Good Shepherd by crossing Lake Muskoka, completing a 28-km swim from Port Carling, Ont., to the Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst.

It’s committed donors and fundraisers like Korzekwa who keep Hamilton’s Good Shepherd afloat, said Cathy Wellwood, the centre’s chief development officer.

“If we don’t get donations we can’t serve our clients,” said Wellwood. “We depend wholeheartedly on donations in this organization. It’s like water and food to an individual.”

Wellwood said donations represent about one-third of the centre’s total operating capital. She added that for every dollar donated to the Good Shepherd the centre is able to get about $3 worth of goods and services.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a great need for more donations.

“We are the largest social service agency in Hamilton and I think the perception out there is that because we are so large we’ve got a of things going for us because it is like a big corporation,” said Wellwood. “But that’s not the case.”

And it’s not just the Good Shepherd Centre that needs help raising money. Korzekwa is also relying on others to assist in reaching her $10,000 fundraising goal.

“I don’t have a fundraising manager, it’s all just word of mouth,” said Korzekwa. “I’m spending all my time swimming and working so there isn’t time for me personally to fundraise.”

Korzekwa will head down to California a week-and-a-half prior to the swim to allow her body to adjust to the climate and salt water. Although she admits she’s a little nervous about the swim, mostly because of the sharks, Korzekwa won’t be alone in the water. She’ll have a team of supporters and pacers accompanying her in a boat the entire way, as well as God watching over her.

“I say a prayer before I get in and a prayer afterwards,” she said. “If I’m going through a tough patch and I come out feeling better I thank God that I’m feeling better and that I’m still going.”

Donations can be made in person at the Good Shepherd Centre in Hamilton or by visiting www.goodshepherdcentres.ca.

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