Dogsled Trek Raises $7,500 For Victims

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 3:23 p.m. February 24, 2014

In his 35 years on the job, Superintendent Heinz Kuck has witnessed the pain and suffering that victims of crime endure.

Dogs in the foreground and a dogsled in the background travel across snow in a treed area
A view of the trek as they cross the frozen North Tea Lake

It’s for that reason he is a huge supporter of  Victim Services Toronto(VST).

The multi-service organization provides immediate crisis intervention that includes trauma counselling, assessment, referrals, linkages and advocacy services; operates case management programs focused on domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking; restores, rebuilds and enhances victims quality of life; provides programs that educate and prevent re-victimization; conducts community education; supports individual, family and community initiatives and operates closely with the Toronto Police Service.

“There are a lot of victims that don’t report a crime because of the fear they have of not getting the support they need,” said the  11 Division unit commander. “That’s why I have such great appreciation for the work VST is doing in bridging the gap and providing the trauma counselling to help bring people through their hardships.”

Over the past two years, he and his colleagues at  53 Division paddled 112 kilometres from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Lakeshore Promenade in Mississauga, raising $35,000 for VST which provides crisis response, trauma and support services to victims of crime and sudden tragic circumstances 24 hours daily.

Earlier this month, Kuck embarked on a new outdoor adventure to raise funds for VST.

Accompanied by experienced guide Jamie Sands, of Chocpaw Expeditions, Kuck covered 120 kilometres over four days with two sleds and 13 dogs in Algonquin Park’s frozen wilderness.

“The weather cooperated for the most part, the dogs performed optimally and most days we went between 25-30 kilometres,” said Kuck. “On the slowest day, we went 16 kilometres and that was because of deep snow and bad trail conditions. One day, we went 41 kilometres across the lakes and flats. Because it was only two of us, we were able to go as fast as we could.”

Kuck was full of praise for Sands, who has a degree in environment and resource studies from the University of Waterloo.

“He looked after business when it came to not putting us in jeopardy,” said Kuck. “He ensured we were on the right trails and our mapping and GPS were in order and that the dogs were partnered appropriately and there was no alpha male fighting or issues regarding injury.” 

Going an additional 20 kilometres was not the only target that Kuck exceeded. He achieved $7,500 in funding for VST, surpassing the original goal of $5,000 and the event marketing website counter achieved almost 800 more hits than the 3,500 they expected.

“This was a win-win for everbody,” Kuck noted. “It proved to be a good marketing tool for VST in terms of outreach through social media. There was also a lot of community talk about the winter event that revolved around our heritage and culture in Canada. Dogsledding provides a very close link to our heritage and that resonated with people.”

Making Tracks Dogsled Adventure Trek benefiting Victim Services Toronto

Kuck said the dogsledding event is the toughest endurance test he has faced in the last three years raising funds for VST.

“Going across Lake Ontario took us five hours, but this was over four days,” he said. “If you are doing hills and deep snow, you are constantly jumping off the sled and you are pushing. You are part of the team and you have to help the dogs. It was quite amusing whenever there was a point that the sled was labouring through the deep snow or on a hill and I wasn’t doing my part, the dogs would look back at me as if to say, ‘Come on buddy’. So I would jump off the sled and start pushing.”

Kuck is now thinking about other events to help fundraise.

“I am trying to think of how I can top this and create more awareness and appropriate funds for victim services,” he added. “There is no better way to support them than by stretching the limits of endurance and stamina. The harder I can push myself, the more support we can get from the community who can relate to the hardships and struggles experienced by victims of crime.”

Seven dogs pull a man through snow on a dogsled with trees in background
Jamie Sands mushing

VST executive director Bonnie Levine thanked Kuck for the ardent support.

“He has done so much for our little agency,” she said. “When you consider his latest expedition truly involved just one person with the help of a guide, the results are outstanding and most impressive. He envisioned, implemented and exceeded targets within four months. The tremendous success in such a short period of time demonstrates his creativity, focus, hard work and passion.”

In addition to generating $7,525, Levine said the “Making Tracks” outdoor expedition raised the organization’s visibility and public profile.

“The event was so unusual and unique that it created a buzz and plenty of interest,” she pointed out. “Just after an article appeared in the Toronto Sun, I received a call from a woman who told me she was compelled to donate because of what this brave police officer was doing. To everyone who was watching, it was evident that Supt. Kuck is so dynamic, hard-working and determined to make a difference in the lives of victims. He has made and continues to make a difference in the lives of victims and for that we are forever grateful.”

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