Memorial donation from Kitchener family to the Cook-Rees Memorial Fund provides rescue swimmer equipment for OPP
Family and friends of Steve Kurt, a Kitchener man who drowned in June 2007, today joined singer/songwriter Loreena McKennitt and members of the Ontario Provincial Police Underwater Search and Recovery Unit on the shores of Silver Lake in Waterloo Park. The informal event, held at the Grist Mill, was held to spotlight the donation of 13 rescue swimmer kits for the OPP.
The funds to purchase the equipment were originally raised at the time of the fatal boating incident that occurred on Bernard Lake, north of Huntsville. Mr. Kurt’s boat had been discovered empty and trolling in circles, two fishing lines still attached, after he failed to return from a summer evening fishing excursion.
Despite extensive searching by the OPP Underwater Search and Recovery Unit the team was initially unable to locate the 43-year-old man before they were called away to another incident. The community raised $11,000 to assist the family to carry on the search privately, but fortunately the dive team was able to return three weeks later. Using side-scan sonar equipment that had been donated by The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund some years before, the team was able to recover the body from the bottom of the lake.
The family, grateful for this resolution, decided that the funds raised by the community should be entrusted to The Cook-Rees Fund as a donation in memory of Steve Kurt. Loreena McKennitt had established the Fund in 1998 after the loss of her fiancée Ron Rees, his brother Rick and their friend Greg Cook in a sailing incident in Georgian Bay.
“We wanted to ensure that the wishes of the family to provide a meaningful contribution could be met,” said Ms. McKennitt.
The donation means that the OPP will be equipped with 13 sets of rescue swimmer equipment — specifically fitted for each individual member of the organization’s dive team. The light-weight equipment allows exceptional freedom of movement, and can be donned rapidly in the event of a rescue emergency.
The new equipment will allow the OPP to increase their attendance at safety demonstrations — especially those that highlight the effects of cold water shock and the importance of wearing lifejackets. Just as importantly, it will allow the OPP to provide emergency rescue services at events with large numbers of people on or near bodies of water. The donation supports the vision of the OPP: "Safe Communities...A Secure Ontario."
“Our family was overwhelmed and truly grateful for all the generous donations that were received in an effort to find Steve,” said Lori Temple, Steve Kurt’s sister. “It brings us some peace and comfort to know we can help the OPP, through the Cook-Rees Fund, with future rescues.”
For more information on water safety, lifejackets and the effects of cold water, visit www.wearalifejacket.com
Loreena McKennitt to be appointed Honorary Colonel of 435
Transport and Rescue Squadron
Singer, composer and
businesswoman Loreena McKennitt will be accepting an
appointment as Honorary Colonel of 435 Transport and Rescue
Squadron in an investiture on Friday Dec. 8, 2006.
435 Squadron is based in Winnipeg and is responsible for
conducting search and rescue operations in central and
northern Canada and air mobility operations at home and
The connection of Ms. McKennitt and the Search and Rescue
(SAR) community occurred with the creation of the Cook-Rees
Memorial Fund For Water Search And Safety following the
drowning of her fiancÚ, his brother and a friend in a
boating incident in 1998. The Fund has been involved in the
training and equipping of rescue and recovery personnel, and
supporting research and public education initiatives.
435 Squadron Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Sean
Friday, discussing the goals of the Honorary Colonel program
said “The Honorary Colonel program provides us an excellent
opportunity to improve public awareness of our operations so
that Canadians have better insight into the kinds of things
their Canadian Forces do both in Canada and abroad on a
daily basis. There is also a very positive impact on the
morale of the Squadron members, knowing prominent Canadians
such as HCol McKennitt take an active interest in our
mission to serve Canada.”
Ms McKennitt, commenting on the appointment said
“ I along with many Canadians perhaps
have not been fully aware or completely appreciative of
what our Canadian forces do for us. In the eight years
since I have become acquainted with the Search and Rescue
squadrons, I have developed great respect and admiration for
the training, courage and selfless commitment these
individuals bring to their duties, sometimes with great risk
and sacrifice. I feel greatly honoured to be chosen as
Honorary Colonel for 435 Squadron”
The investiture takes place on Friday December 8
at 1.30 p.m. in the 17 Wing Officers’ Mess at CFB Winnipeg.
435 Squadron is an Air Force Squadron flying the C130
Hercules in Search and Rescue, Air-to-Air Refueling and
Tactical Airlift roles. The Squadron’s search and rescue
area of responsibility extends from the U.S./ Canada border
to the North Pole and from Quebec City to the Alberta/BC
border. Air-to-air refueling operations are integral to
ensuring Canada’s sovereignty. The Squadron supports
Canadian and allied fighter aircraft on missions at home and
abroad and are prepared to deploy anywhere in the world they
may be required. Tactical airlift operations involve the
transport and airdrop of troops and supplies, or
humanitarian support around the world. 435 Squadron
personnel are currently deployed in support of Canadian and
allied operations in the Afghanistan theatre.
Over the course of twenty years, Ms McKennitt has released
seven studio albums and sold over 13 million records in over
30 countries, earning two Juno Awards and numerous Gold and
Platinum awards. Her most recent recording, An Ancient
Muse, was released worldwide in late November.
Originally from Morden, Manitoba, she moved to Stratford,
Ontario, in the early 1980s, working at The Stratford
Festival before embarking on a singing career. Ms. McKennitt
is a Member of the Order of Canada, awarded the Order of
Manitoba, and has honorary degrees from the University of
Manitoba, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Queen’s
The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund
Proceeds from the sale of Ms. McKennitt’s recording Live
In Paris And Toronto have raised nearly $3,000,000 for
initiatives which have included the purchase of equipment
for search, rescue, dive and recovery teams, as well as
supporting research into water injuries and fatalities,
lifejacket wearing and the impact of cold water. The Fund
has also undertaken educational projects, including the
television series Safe Passage, the website
wearalifejacket.com, and water safety programs at schools
and local pools.
For further information, please contact:
Angela Court, 17 Wing Public Affairs Officer, (204) 227-3439
New public education website goes live on Lifejacket Day!
The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety is pleased to join The Canadian Red Cross in promoting National Lifejacket Day, Thursday, June 22 with the launch of www.wearalifejacket.com.
This website project encourages Canadians to check out the latest advances in lifejacket design and to choose a comfortable stylish personal flotation device (PFD) that suits their own water activity.
Additionally, wearalifejacket.com brings together background research into boating fatalities, cold water shock and drowning prevention in one location for easy access by members of the public, media, sports and safety organizations.
By laying out the facts about boating fatalities and providing smart solutions, wearalifejacket.com will help Canadians make new choices and understand the need to wear a lifejacket at all times when on the water, particularly in small boats.
Research clearly shows that having a lifejacket close by is not enough - it must be worn to be effective. Every year, more than 150 Canadians drown simply because they are not wearing a lifejacket when their small boat capsizes, or they suddenly fall into cold water that makes them gasp. Even good swimmers can find themselves in serious difficulty and unable to get their PFD on once they are in the water.
The good news lies in the advances in inflatable technology and integrated clothing designs, which have made the bulky orange kapok vest a thing of the past. The new styles of wearable personal gear are cool and comfortable and provide maximum performance for active boaters, canoeists and those out for a simple day of fishing.
Power boating, fishing and water sports are hugely popular activities for Canadians. With all the affordable technology now available, there is lots of fun to be had while making a successful return voyage.
Network launches "Safe Passage"
Cook-Rees Memorial Fund is pleased to assist in
announcing the premiere of a new series produced by
the Knowledge Network, British Columbia's Public
Educational Broadcaster. This channel is available
in other areas to some subscribers of satellite
Cook-Rees Memorial Fund was the principal sponsor
of this effort.
Passage" is a series of 6 half-hour episodes on
boating safety that will be broadcast in the coming
months. The announced schedule begins Tuesday May
10 at 7:00pm (Pacific).
For the complete schedule, more information and
related materials, please visit the "Safe Passage"
section of the Knowledge Network
to view in a pop-up window.
To preview available episodes online by direct
streaming access the Knowledge Tool by
speaks at Boating & Water Safety
McKennitt addressed the International Boating and
Water Safety Summit (IBWSS) on March 16, 2005 in
Newport Beach, California. The IBWSS, a cooperative
effort between the U.S. organizations the National
Safe Boating Council and the National Water Safety
Congress, meets each year, bringing together a
diverse group of boating and water safety
professionals from around the world to improve
their knowledge and effectiveness. The Summit
organizers felt that Loreena's personal message
would challenge and inspire attendees, who are
charged with educating recreational boaters.
to read Loreena's remarks (in HTML).
to download a print friendly version of the speech
Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety
is currently not accepting applications for
funding. Over the next two years the fund will be
engaged in two large-scale water safety projects
and will be dedicating all available time and
resources to these initiatives.
of New Website
Cook-Rees Memorial Fund's official website has been
relaunched. In addition to a new design for the
site, we have taken the opportunity to describe the
many projects with which we have been associated
since the inception of the Fund in 1998. We have
learned a great deal from experts and practitioners
in water and boating safety both globally and
the near future we plan to add further features and
information to the site so that more people can
participate in the knowledge and work supported by