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Online Campaign Raising Funds for Float Down Rescue

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ahill
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Online Campaign Raising Funds for Float Down Rescue

Post by ahill on Fri 26 Aug 2016, 1:36 am

What a great act of kindness!
OPP means - Ontario Provincial Police.
The people who live on both sides of the 49th parallel have always helped each other as soon as the pioneers arrived.
Neat idea for a T-shirt.
Ann
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Online Campaign Raising Funds for Float Down Rescue.  Aug.24, 2016

Just 16 hours after Joe Wiedenbeck set up an online gofundme campaign Tuesday to help Sarnia cover its costs for rescuing more than 1,000 stranded Port Huron Float Down refugees, 67 people had contributed $942 (US.)

Wiedenbeck, a married father and pipefitter living in Marysville, Mich., said he decided to set up the online campaign in the wake of Sunday's rescue and the attention it generated.

“I kind of felt like Canada shouldn't have to foot the bill,” he said.

“We're neighbours. We love Canadians. Canadians love us, for the most part, so we should just show them how to be a good neighbour.”

Tuesday, Sarnia city hall reported the rescue and return of a large number of “floaters” blown off course during this year's unsanctioned event on the St. Clair River cost the city just over $8,100.

That included the cost of loading Americans who ended up on shore in Sarnia, instead of the traditional float down landing spot in Marysville, on city buses to drive them over the Blue Water Bridge to U.S. customs.

The annual summer event attracts thousands of participants who put into the water at Port Huron on inflatable rafts, dinghies and inner tubes to float down the river to Marysville.

Most of the “floaters” are Americans but some Canadians take part, and a few participants who have drifted off course in past years have ended up on the Canadian shore.

But weather conditions Sunday quickly turned it into a rescue mission for officials monitoring the event from shore and from boats on the river, and stranded a large number of participants on the Sarnia riverfront.

The cost of cleaning up debris left on the city's shore, as well as costs incurred by city police, fire service and other departments, were also included in city hall's estimate.

The float down has been a tradition in Michigan for decades, but has no official organizers or sponsors, making it a challenge to recover costs for the rescue.

Along with officials on shore, Sunday's response involved the Canadian Coast Guard, OPP, RCMP, Point Edward firefighters, the Canadian Red Cross, and others on the Canadian side of the river.

U.S. police and coast guard were also busy Sunday on the Michigan side of the river.

“I didn't expect anyone to donate, to be honest,” said Wiedenbeck, who titled the campaign, “How she going, eh?”

“I was being a little sarcastic, right from the get go, because everybody wants to complain, but nobody wants to do anything about it.”

He added that when he was setting up the campaign, “my wife just rolled her eyes and said, 'Oh Joe, what are you doing?'”

But, now that people are responding and making donations, Wiedenbeck said, “I really would like the funds to go to Sarnia to help reimburse them for everything they did, because they didn't have to do it.”

Wiedenbeck said he didn't take part in the float down.

“It sounds like fun, it looks like fun but I wouldn't do it because I know what the river is like.”

The online campaign is a generous gesture, said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley.

“No matter how much is raised, I think it sends a real positive message.”

The communities on the opposite sides of the river and international border have developed good relationships over the years, and the co-operation among authorities involved in Sunday's response was at “the highest level,” Bradley said.

Kris Grogan, a public affairs officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, noted that working relationship in an e-mail response about Sunday's incident.

U.S. border officers processed approximately 1,300 U.S. citizens bused back to Michigan Sunday from Sarnia, he said.

When float down participants began landing unexpectedly in Sarnia, because of Sunday's wind and weather conditions, Canadian border officials contacted their U.S. counterparts and came up with a plan to bus them back, Grogan said.

“Due to these participants being in the water very few of them had passports or any official form of identification in their possession when they presented for inspection,” he said.

U.S. citizens have the right to re-enter their country but, if they arrive at the border without documents, they may be delayed temporarily while their identity and citizenship is confirmed, he said.

“Thanks in part to our close working relationship and continued cooperation with CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) all participants were processed expeditiously,” Grogan said.

Bradley said the attention Sunday's rescue has received may be an opportunity for Sarnia.

“This is has been on CNN, The Today Show, CBC,” he said.

“Why don't we have some creative fun with it?”

He sent a note Tuesday to officials at Tourism Sarnia-Lambton, urging them to take advantage of the attention.

The tourism agency had already posted a promotional video on the float down's Facebook page with a note, “Hopefully the next time you go to Sarnia, you can stay a little bit longer.”

One Michigan business, FandomRandom, is taking advantage of the opportunity by offering T-shirts printed with messages that include, “Sarnia: The best designated driver Port Huron could ask for,” and “Port Huron Float Down 2016 refugee.”


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