Dr. Marilyn Korzekwa will swim from Nova Scotia to P.E.I. and back to New Brunswick to raise funds for Hamilton’s Good Shepherd Centres. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Korzekwa

Good Shepherd beneficiary of doctor’s tri-province Atlantic swim

By 
  • July 19, 2015

Swimming is fun. So why not do it 22 to 26 hours in 16-to-20-degree water with jellyfish, possible high winds and ocean tides pulling you in various directions? Not every 58-year-old psychiatrist is crazy enough to try it.

Dr. Marilyn Korzekwa will start off in Nova Scotia, touch land in Prince Edward Island and finish in New Brunswick in a first-ever three-province swim whenever the conditions are right between July 23 and 28.

“This is the first time this has been done. So this is making Canadian history,” Korzekwa told The Catholic Register.

But it’s not just about history. It’s mostly about Korzekwa’s patients and the unique, life-saving service they receive from Hamilton’s Good Shepherd Centres. The veteran long-distance swimmer hopes to raise $15,000 for the Good Shepherd, the same Catholic charity she swam for in 2013 when she conquered California’s 32-kilometre Catalina Channel.

This swim is 47 kilometres and Korzekwa is very aware of the challenge she’s facing.

“It’s a greater challenge. It’s a colder challenge… It’s not going to be easy-peasy,” she said.

But Korzekwa wants the challenge of the cold water to train for the final big swim of her career. In six months she will swim the 30-kilometre Cook Strait in New Zealand against immense tidal flows in icy water.

This will be the fourth time Korzekwa has dedicated one of her challenging swims to the Good Shepherd and to the patients she occasionally refers to the Barrett Centre, which provides short-term, transitional beds to people in crisis.

“As I am a psychiatrist, my patients have mental health crises. And so I can just call up the Barrett Centre and they will take care of them for three-to-five days,” said Korzekwa.

The Barrett Centre’s ability to bring Korzekwa’s patients “back into their wise-mind-selves,” as the doctor puts it, is a unique and essential bridge within Hamilton’s mental health system. Korzekwa finds herself full of admiration for the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God and their approach to healing in the city.

“They actually look for needs in the community. When they see one, they start a program,” she said. “It’s not just the shelters and the buildings. For every building they’ve got there’s a dozen programs run out of it to fill various gaps in the community.”

At 58, Korzekwa figures next year will be her last year of crazy, long-distance swims. She’s done Lake Ontario in both directions — 45 kilometers south-to-north in 1983 and 46 kilometres north-to-south in 1984. She holds the Canadian record for the fastest north-to-south Lake Ontario swim. In 2011 she swam 35 kilometres across Lake Simcoe, from Barrie to Orillia. That year she also won the Van Audenaerde Endurance Cup from the Channel Swimming Association for her English Channel crossing. In 2012 she became the oldest Canadian to swim 32 kilometres across the San Pedro Strait from Catalina Island to the California mainland. Over the last six years she’s also conquered Lake Rosseau, Lake St. Joseph and Lake Muskoka.

You can learn more about the Three Provinces Swim at 3provinces2015.blogspot.ca. You can contribute at http//bit.ly/1HCg6Ce.

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