Two busses and an army medic truck rolled into Swansea Point Friday morning and parked at the Cambridge Road beach access.
Within minutes, the 78 cadets received their instructions and started work immediately, hauling driftwood and debris from the beach access to the side of the road.
By 9:49 a.m., the Cambridge access was finished. The cadets split into two groups and were off to clean up the rest of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District beach access points.
“The cadets are gung-ho, they are excited,” says Lt. Col. Lyle Johnson, the Commanding Officer of the Vernon summer training centre. “When I got here this morning this road was blocked. But now, with the debris taken out of the water and moved to the side, it’s cleaned up.”
With officers standing close by, the cadets unofficially organized themselves into working groups. Some formed assembly lines while others formed bigger teams to bring out the larger logs. Others work individually, hauling smaller pieces.
One young cadet picked up a slender, round piece of wood a few feet taller than himself. Posing momentarily, he says, “I stand here like Gandalf…” referring staff-wielding wizard from Lord of the Rings.
Joyce Balestra, a local resident, stopped to take a photo of the cadets hard at work.
“I think it’s fantastic that they’re doing this; it’s extremely helpful,” she said.
They crew broke for lunch about 11:30, many of them dripping wet from having carried water-soaked logs on their shoulders.
“They said we were cleaning up beaches, I figured we were going to be on litter patrol,” said 16-year-old Colton Moubert.
“It was a bit of a shock,” he added with a laugh.
The cadets, who come from all over Canada, are attending a summer camp. They had only been at camp for five days before they were told they were going to be helping the community of Swansea Point.
“This has been a huge opportunity for team building,” said Major Larry Jeffries.
“I’m extremely proud of each and every one of them.”
Jeffries was one of a team who had come up with the idea of offering help. He says it fits in with one of the overall goals they’re trying to teach the cadets.
“Citizenship wasn’t built into our program (Air Rifle Marksmanship Course), but it’s one of the goals of the cadet program,” Jeffries explained. “Once we got on the ground here in Vernon, we decided to branch out to the community to find out what things we could do in the community.”
When the flooding hit their neighbouring community, they made some phone calls offering assistance. By this time, the community of Swansea let the Shuswap Emergency Program know they could use some help with their beach accesses.
“It was a perfect fit,” said Ed Campbell, a volunteer for the Shuswap Emergency Program who helped organize the clean-up project.
Campbell said he was thoroughly impressed with the work ethic of the cadets, who had everything cleaned up by 3 p.m.
Their help has left the Swansea Point residents overwhelmed with gratitude says Tina Keely, secretary for the Swansea Point Community Association.
“Everyone thought it was the most fantastic thing, seeing those kids around,” she said. “It is one of those heartwarming stories. We certainly did appreciate it. It was just the greatest thing, giving the community a hand like that.”
For Cadet Moubert, it just makes sense that they should come out to help.
“The people fund DND (the Department of National Defense) so it’s giving back to the community. It’s a good thing to do.”