PORT DOVER, Ont. — As metre-high waves crashed down upon 14-year-old Annaleise Carr in the chilly waters of Lake Ontario in the middle of the night, the money she was raising to send kids with cancer to camp kept her going.
The Ontario teenager, believed to be the youngest person ever to swim across the lake, raised $115,000 with her marathon swim from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto for Camp Trillium.
Carr said she was overwhelmed with the response from the public, and kept her fundraising goal in mind as she received constant updates from her crew during her 27-hour swim.
“It’s just crazy,” she said. “I didn’t expect to get much higher than $30,000.”
Less than 20 hours after she emerged from the water, Carr stood before a bank of television cameras to talk about her feat.
“As I got into the water on Saturday I just kept thinking about Camp Trillium and what I was doing it for,” she said.
“I didn’t want to give up when I thought about how much the kids at Camp Trillium have been through and what they have to go through their entire lives.”
Through the night the waves increased and the swim got tougher and tougher, Carr said. When the morning light broke a pacer helped lift her spirits by making funny faces, she said.
“Then I started getting updates on how much money I’d raised and it was going up like crazy,” Carr said.
“I got told $50,000 and I was already over my goal and I started swimming harder. I got told $60,000 and I didn’t want to stop.”
The tally kept climbing and Carr said she knew she couldn’t stop.
“When I was about a kilometre away I could hear everyone and start seeing lights. At that time the current was really, really bad and it felt like I was going nowhere,” she said.
“That’s when I heard that I had gotten over $100,000. I was like really excited.”
Donations for Carr’s marathon swim will send 115 children to camp for 10 days.
“I was happy to get out of the water, I have to admit, and I was just thinking about all the money I had raised,” she said. “And I was thinking about my family.”
Carr, who is from the tiny community of Walsh in southern Ontario, said it took a while to convince her parents to let her attempt the 52-kilometre swim.
She credits her family and her crew in the water for helping her through the marathon swim, which was the equivalent of about 1,040 Olympic-sized swimming pool lengths.
“They all said before that I could do it and they had no doubts,” she said. “Yesterday I was sore, more sore than today, but it’s not bad at all today. I can feel that it hurts but it’s not like I cant move or anything. I’m tired but other than that I’m okay.”
Carr wanted to help kids at Camp Trillium in person, but volunteers had to be 18 years old. The idea to swim across Lake Ontario started as a joke, but her parents got behind it once they saw how many rules and regulations were attached, she said.
After the glare of television cameras was gone, supporters told Carr she was their hero and many said they had driven across the province to hear her speak.
“I never really expected anyone to call me their hero, so it’s really nice to hear people say that,” she said. “But I don’t know if I consider myself a hero.”
The humble teenager plans on being back in the water next week, when she will raise more money for Camp Trillium by swimming 10 kilometres across Lake Erie.