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Local grandmother to ‘dive in’ for a good cause

One local grandmother is jumping in to 2022 with a splash – literally!

Gail McTague is accepting pledges on behalf of Kingston’s Grandmother Connection to support grandmothers in Africa raising their orphaned grandchildren. To garner funds, McTague will jump into Portsmouth Harbour on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022.

Gail McTague tests the cold Lake Ontario waters ahead of her Jan. 2, 2022, polar dip.

“There are all these grannies with children to look after, withno resources whatsoever,” McTague said, explaining that AIDS has killed most of the parenting generation, leaving their children orphaned and to be raised by their grandparents.

“AIDS has killed the parents of hundreds of thousands of children. So, there’s all these grannies looking after orphans and they have no support from the government. They are left to their own devices. They have to grow their own food, they have to build their own houses,” McTague explained, expressing that the situation those African grannies face must be heartbreakingly difficult. “Your children have all died, but you have six or seven grandchildren that need to be raised.”

Since the Kingston Grandmother Connection first began in 2006, it has been very successful in raising funds to support grandmothers in Africa; however, since the COVID-19 pandemic has halted in-person events, the Connection has had a difficult time raising much-needed funds.

Most of the fundraising the Kingston Grandmother Connection does is through social markets and other gatherings. However, they have had to “get creative” over the past couple years in order to meet their fundraising goals. That’s where McTague’s polar dip comes in.

“The virus has impacted these people [in Africa] who are on the ropes most of the time already. It’s very, very hard,” said McTague. “It’s been hard raising funds this past year.”

She said she has already had so much support from the community and cannot wait to see how far the initiative will go in raising funds for the Kingston Grandmother Connection, in support of African grandmothers.

More than 25 million people in Africa are living with HIV/AIDS and over 2 million die each year, according to the Kingston Grandmother Connection website. About 60 per cent of these people are young mothers.

As a result, tens of millions of children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, including 14.8 million under the age of 18, the website states.

The Kingston Grandmother Connection raises funds to provide African grandmothers and orphans with food, heating oil, school fees and uniforms, and other daily essential needs. More information on how donated funds are utilized can be read here.

Initially, McTague hoped to raise $500 for the cause when she decided to do a New Year’s Day polar dip in support of African grandmothers, and though she wouldn’t say how much they’ve raised to date, she did say: “We’ve already made three times” the initial $500 goal.

“Let’s all encourage her by making a pledge to Kingston Grandmother Connection. There has been a wonderful response already, so let’s keep it going,” said Jean Hodgson, another member of the Connection. “Come out to cheer Gail on in her courageous plunge to support the grandmothers… As the pledges climb, so will Gail’s determination to take the plunge.”

McTague said jumping in the lake to raise money was, for her, a simple, easy and fun way to contribute to the cause.

“To me, I can jump in the cold lake. But the idea of using the computer to do anything useful is quite beyond me,” she laughed. “It’s something fun to be involved in. It’s a good opportunity.”

Due to forecasted poor weather conditions for New Years Day, McTague will be doing her polar dip in the small beach to the right of Portsmouth Olympic Harbour on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, at noon.

There are several ways to support McTague, and the grandmothers in Africa project. One way is to make an Email Money Transfer pledge to [email protected], payable to Kingston Grandmother Connection with the note: “Polar Dip.” Please include your address for a tax receipt for donations over $20.00.

Cheques can also be mailed to Eileen Dixon, the Kingston Grandmother Connection Treasurer, at 20 Beverly St. Kingston, ON, K7L 3Y4.

Additionally, onations can also be made online, here.

Ted Hsu for MPP
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