George Kun was enjoying a paddle in his kayak on Lake Wilcox on July 26, when cries for help interrupted his peaceful summer pastime.
The member of the Richmond Hill Canoe Club heard children’s cries, but couldn’t immediately see where the trouble was.
He finally saw a tiny inflatable rubber boat with two boys inside, calling out “Sir, sir!”
He guessed they were possibly ages 8 and 12, sitting facing each other, holding small plastic single blade paddles.
“My heart melted, because they looked so scared and clueless. They were also extremely cute, with big eyes and rich curly hair,” recalls Kun.
He later learned they were brothers who had come recently to Canada from Somalia with their parents.
“Sir, can you please help us to get to the shore?” asked the older boy.
Kun agreed, but told the boys they had to calm down and follow his instructions.
“I told them not be scared any more and follow exactly what I was going to tell them and everything would be OK.”
Their boat was about 400 metres from the shore, almost in the middle of Lake Wilcox, and Kun realised that they were not wearing life jackets.
Not wanting to frighten them any more, he decided to work to get them back to shore quickly and safely.
He instructed the younger boy to carefully turn around, so they were sitting one behind the other.
He then showed them how to hold the paddles properly, instructed them on how to paddle on opposite sides of the boat, and how to keep the craft straight while paddling.
“I was absolutely amazed how quickly they picked up everything I told them to do. I was also giving them occasional pushes with the tip of my kayak, so we made it back to shore quite rapidly and with no incidents.”
The worried boys’ parents were waiting on the public dock, somewhat calmer since they witnessed the rescue operation from a distance.
The mother thanked Kun repeatedly with tears in her eyes.
The father thanked him, too, but began lecturing his sons in a loud voice with words that sounded harsh and seemed to upset the boys.
“I said I wanted to tell him something, both as a parent and a kayaker. I told him that the boys were too young to be alone in a boat, that they must wear life jackets, and they should learn basic paddling skills before venturing on water.”
Kun also pointed out it was getting dark and that the nice, calm lake can very easily get windy and unfriendly.
The man looked distressed at Kun’s lecture, but Kun said after prodding from his wife, the husband thanked him again, both for his help and his advice.
“As I was paddling away, the boys suddenly started waving at me with both hands up and yelling again ‘Thank you, Sir’!”
- Marney Beck