On your mark, Matt, get ready…swim!

Mathieu Bonin

by Diane Sims

LITTLE CURRENT—Mathieu Bonin’s steps into the North Channel, off Harbour View Marina at Little Current (at the end of Harbour View Road), on Friday, July 1, to begin what could be the first 350-kilometre circumference swim around the Island. Matt is swimming to increase awareness of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and to raise funds to cure this insidious neurological disease. All monies go to the MS Society of Canada.  He will step into the water at dawn on Canada Day, (sunrise that day is 5:41 am).

“We have a fundraising platform called ‘We Challenge MS’ with which we’re helping to promote Matt’s event. He shows incredible initiative,” affirmed Heather Saba, senior director Community Central Canada, MS Society of Canada, in a telephone interview.

Matt has tapered his swimming these last two weeks in order to rest his body and tackle another challenge – bulking up.

“Eating has been a real challenge. I’ll be eating 10,000 calories a day. I’ll be eating more than the average family of four!” Matt chuckled in our video interview from a clattering Sudbury coffee shop.

The 35-year-old is eating a lot of chicken to take in 150 grams of his daily protein needs. There are about eight grams of protein per ounce of chicken, according to Health Canada. A lot of his protein is in fluid shakes specially designed by his sports nutritionist.

“But like every kid’s dream, I once ate two pizzas,” Matt laughed. He intentionally put on an extra 15 pounds this year for the cold-water challenge.

However, other troublesome thoughts have tested Matt during this tapering period away from his Zen water haven.

“One, my brain is thinking I’m not doing enough and that thought is overwhelming,” he mused, lowering his eyes from mine.

Yet his eyes popped opened again as he added that he has swum the equivalent of five times around the Island in practice this year.

Matt will swim clockwise around the Island and as he noted, Mother Nature will determine how far he can go a day. For the most part, he’ll hug the shoreline but plans to traverse the bays, thereby saving time, distance and, he hopes, energy.

He draws inspiration from the plethora of quotes posted by MS sufferers on the “Words of Encouragement” website page. I reminded Matt, as I remind readers, that I have end-stage MS and my sister Karen died with MS so he’s swimming for us too. Here I quote briefly from those pages:

“Matt, I congratulate you on your intentions, sir, even before you hit the waves…I went from a marathon runner to a wheelchair….You are really a hero just in case you didn’t know!” – Rami

“Dearest Matt, I read the article in the Manitoulin newspaper and I’m so touched by it. I admire your strength, courage, determination and big heart….Thank you for what you are doing and thanks for sharing your  story. May God bless you, Matt.” – Denise

“Crush this like you crush every endeavour you’ve done!” — Sonia

He will have both a boat crew and ground crew accompanying him. That said, we all know not all roads hug the shoreline so the ground crew will be hiking with tenting equipment at times.

Matt has contacted all six First Nation band offices but, as of print deadline, has only received the blessing of Wiikwemkoong council to tent anywhere around that great peninsula shoreline. Band offices need only leave a message on Matt’s website and the message will get to the crew. (msmanitoulinswim.com) He made it clear he doesn’t want to infringe on anyone’s land.

And Matt stressed he’s already satisfied because of the many people pushing themselves due to his inspiration. Indeed, I’ve bumped up my own exercises from 45 to 60 minutes each morning.

“I’ve made it here. In my eyes I’ve been successful. I’ve inspired a lot of people to do small things,” he said, ending this week’s interview.

Stay tuned: Next week I meet up with Matt somewhere along the Strawberry Channel shore or in Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory and I’ll have a few fundraising highlights.