Category Archives: CLUBWEST

Jumping rope world wide

By Joanne McDonald

Sydney Nicholls lives life at double and even triple speed.

A Canadian national jump rope champion, her skill and speed have placed her on the international podium and she is helping to put the demanding sport on the Olympic radar.

And best of all, she is the nicest teen you could ever meet.

Last fall in China, Sydney placed an impressive 3rd overall in a very competitive field of global athletes. A member of the dynamic Lincoln Leapers, the 13-year-old Grimsby resident was one of 10 selected to represent Canada at the International Jump Rope Competition (Rope Skipping China Open 2019) in Beijing.

She competed in three masters (individual) events including 30-second speed, three-minute speed and single rope freestyle – that is when she wasn’t doing jump rope tricks along the Great Wall of China.

It was quite the adventure and an opportunity Sydney says she wouldn’t have had without her dedicated coaches, the community, the Leapers and “my amazing parents.”

Sitting at the kitchen table with her parents Tim and Deb Nicholls, Sydney’s focus is now on qualifying for the 2020 International Jump Rope Union (IJRU) World Championships this July in Ottawa. It’s the newly-merged IJRU’s first global championship event and they can’t wait to welcome the entire jump rope world to Canada.

It’s a very exciting time for the sport and Canada has a lot to look forward to watching this young athlete perform.

“I credit Sydney’s ability to get to this level with her perseverance and determination and a belief in herself. She has a laser focus,” says Tim, speaking both as her dad and team manager and conditioning coach for the Lincoln Leapers. “She can be surrounded by judges, 10 at each table and maintain her centre. “She has that level of confidence, strength and concentration.”

Sydney also has a grace and poise that belies her 13 years. And she is grounded in humility – one of her strong personality traits.

“The best part is how humble she is. She takes her accomplishments in stride and is proud of all her team mates,” says Deb. “That is what is so nice about Sydney’s personality. She truly cares about other people.” And, “she never skips a practice.”

Sydney is already a veteran of numerous national and international competitions and it’s been heartwarming for Deb to see her daughter trading national pins with athletes from other countries.“ She has made beautiful friendships around the world.”

Skipping, jumping and turning the ropes since the age of six, it was curiosity and the prompting of lifelong friend Hannah Miller that first brought Sydney to the athletic sport when she joined the Lincoln Leapers.

“After that first night, I knew I wanted to skip,” Sydney said. It was creative and wide open and she loved learning new tricks.

Quickly moving through the initial three levels, she was invited to try out, and qualified that first year to go to the national competition in Vancouver.

“It was really hard the first year. I went straight from Little Leapers, all fun, straight into competition. I had to pick up what to do pretty fast as it was a national competition,” said Sydney. “The coaches gave me lots of motivational pep talks and were always encouraging.”

A Grade 8 student at Central French Immersion Public School in Grimsby, Sydney was part of the first year pilot to introduce French immersion when she started Grade 1 and will graduate with the inaugural class before heading to Grimsby Secondary School.

A well rounded athlete, Sydney plays volleyball and also finds time for track and field and cross country. A straight A student, she gets home from workouts, does her homework, no moaning or groaning.

“She juggles her responsibilities well and has great time management skills,” says Deb. “She has had the same friends for years, a wonderful group of friends, many of them together since preschool.”

Physical fitness is in the genes for this family – cycling, hiking, power walking.

So too is the strong family bond to being there for each other.

Sydney did competitive gymnastics for five years, training at Aspire Gymnastics in Grimsby. She still goes to Aspire for tumbling and skips three times a week at Blessed Trinity Secondary School and Smithville Public School.

“My Mom and Dad have always supported me through the ups and downs, the physical wear and tear, day to day to practises, the emotional roller coaster, and the absolute excitement when it all pays off,” Sydney said.

Sydney has brought home some serious hardware from the growing list of national and international competitions.

Nationally she won first overall for females 13-14 at the 2019 Rope Skipping Canada National Championships in Olds, Alberta. Her very first competition she earned 14th overall in the 8-9 and under division in Vancouver; the second year in Halifax brought 2nd overall, 10 and under; the third year, a 1st overall in 10 and under in Olds, Alberta; 2nd overall, 11-12 year in Kingston; and 2nd overall, 11-12 in Windsor.

Internationally, Sydney earned 3rd overall at the 2019 China Open; 11th overall in the 14 and under at the 2019 World Jump Rope Championships in Oslo, Norway, (Sydney and Leaper team mate Sofia Stadler both placed 4th in their masters freestyle divisions); and 6th overall in the 11-12 year category at the 2018 international
competitions in Orlando, Florida. (The Lincoln Leaper team got second in the double Dutch speed event.)

Now, “it’s my dream to be on the Canadian national team and compete at the Olympics,” says Sydney.

Sydney was one of only two athletes from Ontario, including world champion Eilea Given and four athletes from British Columbia to compete in the China Open.

Their arrival coincided with the country’s celebration of its 70th year of communism. “It was amazing. Everybody was nice, and helpful, ready to give directions and help out,” said Sydney. She survived mainly on white rice and touring the sights there were many curious cameras pointed in her direction.

It was a big change with the time difference and they had to compete two days after landing. It was an outdoor venue for the international competition and they learned just the night before competitions started they would have to use jump ropes provided by the Chinese and had no opportunity to practise.

“I just tried to go with it,” Sydney said.

For Eilea it was also an exciting adventure and her spectacular photos of Sydney will be a treasured memory.

“Sydney and I were training partners, we met at least once a week to train together. We were the only two athletes from Ontario who competed in China. She is 13 and I am 30, and we both had an excellent season in 2019,” Eilea said.

A member of the ‘Thirty No Hurty’ team in Fonthill and multiple gold medalist, Eilea put up the fastest score ever recorded at the World Jump Rope Championships in the female 30+ category in 2019 in Oslo, Norway.

“Sydney gives me the benefit of her energy, and I (try to) give her the benefit of my experience in the sport. She is certainly not afraid of hard work, and matches me stride for stride in our training. It has been such a beautiful and wonderful privilege to get to watch her develop into the athlete she is now and is yet becoming. Canada has a lot to look forward to in watching this athlete perform.”

It would be hard to count the hours and commitment Tim brings to supporting the Leapers. His positive enthusiasm sets the stage for success.

“The relationship between the older jumpers and younger jumpers is unprecedented. That mentorship is so positive. They help each other and encourage each other,” says Tim.

“While Sydney was in Vancouver, it was almost like an entourage. They took care of her, encouraged her, kept her calm and gave her confidence, as they do with all the young ones,” Tim said. “This is what we love about this sport.”

Watching the Lincoln Leapers practise in the gym at Blessed Trinity Secondary School is more than motivational. Positivity and enthusiasm come natural it seems to the organizers and coaches.

The Leapers work hard and have a lot of fun.

“We’re a family, everyone supports everyone,” says Lincoln Leaper President Cheryl Giannini. From jumping to turning the ropes, “everyone brings their own skill set. Success is the sum of all parts.”
Cheryl credits the skill and commitment of head coach Becca

Simpson as a big part of Leaper success. The days are packed with a weekly program that includes: Monday team practice; Tuesday, conditioning and performance team; Wednesday, program and pre-competition practice; and Thursday team practice.

“The older kids help the younger ones to grow in the sport. You can’t pay for this kind of mentorship,” Cheryl said. “It’s so much fun to watch them grow.”

At present, the Lincoln Leapers have 27 competitive jumpers, ages 8-18, competing locally and internationally. There are 20 pre-competitive jumpers and about 80 Little Leapers, recreational jumpers learning to skip. Renowned for their performances, the Leapers have enraptured audiences at five Raptor half-time shows in Toronto.

Former Lincoln Leaper head coach, Carly Simpson is now Canadian rep for the IJRU.

Cherylsaid Carly has been instrumental in the Leaper program and in helping Jump Rope Canada get to international status.

They are all looking forward to the first IJRU world competition this July in Ottawa. “This is a huge coup for us to grow the sport.”

“Carly is working with American counterpart Chris Brown to develop the judging rule book,” Cheryl said.

“I’ve known Becca and Carly since I started and they’re just really good coaches,” said Sydney. “They have taught me so much and I always have fun.”

“It’s a very exciting time in the sport,” says Tim. “Everything is changing from the club level to the international level, rules that kids jump under, some events are changing, all judges must be trained, all go through a rigorous training process to know what they are judging and training.”

The thrill however remains the same – watching people’s jaws drop when they watch the Leapers perform.

“Canada has a lot of work to get jump rope recognized as a sport and to make sure, when the Olympics occur, we will be there with a national team,” Tim said.

The Lincoln Leapers jump rope team is a non-profit association that was established in 1982 as a small elementary school club. It was the first competitive jump rope team in Canada and has grown into one of the largest and most decorated teams, holding provincial, national, and world titles. The Leapers draw from Grimsby, St. Catharines, Smithville, all of West Niagara to St. Catharines.

“We’re constantly fundraising in order to get our coaches to provincial, national and international events.”

“Any time we go out for sponsorships, we are always amazed at how generous the community is,” Tim said. “We’ve received amazing amounts from the Legions, Beamsville and Grimsby. The Winona Men’s Club routinely gives a great contribution every year.”

For more information, visit the website:

Strength of the Dragon


(To view our November/December 2019 issue of ClubWEST online, click here.)

By By Joanne McDonald

Dragon boaters don’t worry about what’s behind them.

“We focus on what’s ahead. We focus on the finish line,” says Lorraine Martin, sharing as one the thoughts of every breast cancer survivor who dips a paddle in perfect sync with her sisters in the competitive sport of dragon boat racing.

Both on the water and in life, it’s true for every member of the Knot A Breast (KAB) dragon boat team. They never look back.

“We look forward to see what’s coming and anything is possible,” Martin said.

They have the strength of the dragon.

It’s one thing to read about dragons and quite another to meet them. World champion athletes, KAB dragon boaters Martin, a Beamsville resident, Kim Short of Smithville and Judy-Anne Sleep of Grimsby are empowered by the demanding sport and they inspire others who are going through the same journey.

They have stood on the podium multiple times as athletes and winners. They are a spirited bunch. They are fiercely competitive.

And this summer, they’ll be on the water in France to compete for the 2020 Club Crew world title.

This past July, KAB won first place at the 2019 Canadian National Dragon Boat Championships on Wascana Lake in Regina, Saskatchewan. And with that win they earned a berth to compete in August at the 2020 International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) Club Crew World Championships in Aix-les-Bains, France.

This is one competitive group of athletes and all the hard work has paid off.

“It’s a whole other level for us,” said Martin. “We won the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission (IBCPC) three times in a row, 2010 in Peterborough, 2014 in Florida, and 2018 in Italy, and now look forward to the challenge of the Club Crew world championships.”

In 2010, KAB placed first overall in the International Breast Cancer Participatory Festival held in Peterborough. They won the title in Sarasota, Florida in 2014, and in 2018, won a hard fought battle to again defend the title at the IBCPC Festival in Florence, Italy.

Martin and Sleep shared their very first paddle on the Henley course in St. Catharines in 2006.

“It poured buckets,” said Sleep, recalling their efforts to bail out the boat at the start and finish line.

“Just when you thought it couldn’t rain any harder, it did.” She had just finished breast cancer treatment when she set out for the brand new adventure.

Sleep’s husband Blyn was more than a little uncertain about the risks that day and brought his own boat out to keep a close eye. “It’s like the 401 out there,” he told Judy-Anne, nervous for her safety.

“We didn’t know what we were getting into. I’d never seen a dragon boat before.” But it wasn’t long before Blyn was calling the beauty of the sport “poetry in motion,” and has since been driving the safety boat at every event.

For Sleep it was an overture to an addicting love of the sport and she met women who had been there for each other through really tough times. “You never really know what you can do until you do it.”

For Martin, sports was something her sisters did. “It wasn’t until I started dragon boating that I realized how competitive I could be.”

“We were the newbies and our veteran team members cheered us on, convincing us that we could do it and believing we could be strong.”

Word of mouth brought Short to the team in 2016. “I was looking for something to do physically after recovering from breast cancer treatment and was intrigued by the sport.”

“Being with other women who had gone through a similar experience and wanting to move forward and feel stronger, I had no idea how passionate I would become about the sport and also how attached I would become to these incredible people,” Short said.

For the dragon boaters it’s a floating support group. But when they’re on the water, Short says, they are training like athletes and competing like athletes.

“This allows us to put the medical experience in the background and we move forward.” But they know they have the connection with each other when they need it.

It’s also a support connection for team members’ partners. “Often the people who support you are struggling as well,” Short said.

“It’s like having an extended a family and 44 extra sisters,” says Lorraine’s husband Jim Martin. “They all have their own stories of how they’ve dealt with surgery and radiation and now they’ve stepped up and they’re not just survivors, they’re athletes. It’s a transition you have to see to believe. They’re quite the crew.”

The crew of the dragon boat consists of 20 paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow of the boat, one drummer or caller at the bow facing toward the paddlers, and one steerer standing at the rear of the boat.

“To have success you need to be working in synch. We paddle together, we have one stroke together and it’s one heart together,” Short said.

On the water, all eyes are on their fearless leader Kathy Levy who founded the KAB dragon boat team of breast cancer survivors in 1998 and has since been the inspiration for every dragon boater on the team.

“Kathy is small but mighty. She has big dreams and she believes in us. She believes in us and that allows us to believe in ourselves.”

“We can see huge transformations. We believe in ourselves and we believe in each other and that gives us the strength to survive and strive,” Short said.

“Kathy is all of our inspiration,” said Sleep.

The Wascana Lake setting for the Canadian Nationals was absolutely beautiful Short said of the July competition with six teams from across Canada that earned them the berth for the 2020 Club Crew world championship races.

The first day the winds were so high the races were cancelled. “The girls were set to race on the Friday but didn’t get on the water.”

They had gone through the warm ups and mental preparation only to be sent home. There were no breast cancer races scheduled for the Saturday. The pressure was on for the Sunday and they won the final 500 metre race.

“We knew we had a good start,” Short said. Levy was in position in the bow, “so we can see her face. She is the one who is coaching and can see the positions of the other boats. We focus on looking forward and staying in stroke.”

“When you get halfway, my job is to call for power, which I did about three time in the race and everybody digs in harder.”

About 30 strokes out the coach calls for the finish. There is a simultaneous change in the body position of the team, “leaning forward and pulling as much water as you can.”

“Kathy is tiny but she has a huge voice on the water. And we just know to stay focused and do whatever she asks to the best of our ability.”

“At the end of the race, gasping for air we looked at Kathy and saw her smile. We knew we had won.”

“By then you are exhausted, you leave it all on the water,” Short says. “We have a saying…you need to know when you get up out of that boat, you’ve left it all on the water. You’ve emptied the tank.

The KAB dragon boaters are a diverse group of women but they share the same life-changing experience of breast cancer and the dragon boat is a symbol of their survivorship and strength.
The team has about 40 members with ages ranging from 43 to 73. Some are 20-plus years survivors, others are just finishing cancer treatment and dealing with the side effects – they all have a seat in the boat.

“When you race at the Nationals you are trying to win a berth to go to the Club Crew world championships,” said Short. KAB will be competing against the top teams from around the world.
The KAB dragon boaters train year round, twice a week on the Hamilton Bay out of the Macassa Bay Yacht Club. “They are a great support for us,” Short said.

The KAB dragon boaters are in the tank every Saturday at the International Flatwater Centre in Welland, where they train with the Welland Warlocks and their coach former Olympian Doug Jones. They train as well at the Hamilton YWCA, developing technique and cardiovascular endurance and strength.

They’re up against teams that have year round access to water.

Even though they practice in the tank it’s not the same as on the water, learning to work together and manage water conditions, so the more practice they get the better.


KAB held its first meeting at the Breast Cancer Support Services office in Burlington, Ontario in 1998.

Starting with a small group of breast cancer survivors, Levy, also a survivor, formed the KAB dragon boat team in the fall of 1997.

Age, athletic ability and paddling experience did not matter.

The team was comprised solely of women ranging in age from 30-65.

The only criterion to membership on this unique team was that a person had a diagnosis of breast cancer.

They began water training in Hamilton at Bayfront Park in May, 1998 and are proud owners of two dragon boats docked at Macassa Bay Yacht Club in Hamilton.

They’ve since earned their place as top competitors traveling to local, national and international venues, promoting athleticism and sportsmanship at its best.


Breast cancer survivors’ dragon boating is an international movement inspired by the 1995 research of Dr. Don McKenzie, a Canadian sports medicine physician and exercise physiologist at the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre, University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“It is an approach to promoting health and raising breast cancer awareness that is driven by women with the disease. It reaches out to other women and offers them a message of hope and support. It is helping to change attitudes toward ‘life after breast cancer,’ and it encourages women to lead full and active lives. It is making a difference,” McKenzie said in a 1998 research paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

More than 160 Breast Cancer dragon boat teams are now paddling around the world, raising awareness with teams in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, United Kingdom and U.S.


KAB is a non-profit, breast cancer dragon boat team which receives excellent community support in a range of areas:

  • City of Hamilton, financial support;
  • Macassa Bay Yacht Club, Bayfront Park in Hamilton for providing docking facilities, clubhouse;
  • Dr. David R. Levy, McMaster University, David Braley Sport Medicine & Rehabilitation Centre for treating the sprains and strains;
  • Tim Hortons, Dave and Maureen at 136 Kenilworth Ave. N., Hamilton for providing coffee at practices;
  • YWCA Hamilton for the opportunity to train at the indoor pool and gym; and
  • Burlington Fitness & Racquet Club for access to the fitness centre.

For more information visit the website at




(To view our September/October 2019 issue of ClubWest online, click here)

A place to just be

By Joanne McDonald

The mindful kindness of Daphne and Dave Bakker lifts many weary hearts that find their way to the tranquility and respite of the Haven of Hope Farm Bed and Breakfast in Lincoln.

For the past six years it’s been a soft landing for so many – families supporting loved ones in the hospital located five minutes away, individuals undergoing cancer and other medical treatments, people living with disabilities, and those seeking respite from the stresses of everyday life.

“Sometimes people need a place to just be,” says Daphne who with Dave has walked her own journey caring for family members and welcomes guests exactly where they are in that journey.

They know the importance and power of being there unconditionally. They have a depth of understanding that is intuitive to the needs of their guests – from understanding their need for privacy to welcoming them around the kitchen table for a big country breakfast.

Daphne leads a tour through the immaculately clean and fully accessible private guest apartment that opens onto a porch that wraps around the house for a spectacular view of the idyllic rural setting.

There is an easygoing gentleness about the farm – fluffy sheep grazing, doting alpacas minding the chickens – and the absolute majesty of the green hills that roll across the horizon to meet the old growth Carolinian forest of the Rockway Conservation Area.

The beauty of nature all around is life affirming.

The setting is picture perfect but it’s the sensitive and intuitive care from hosts Daphne and Dave that give support to guests wherever they are on their journey.

“We felt this was something we were really called to do,” said Daphne. “We feel incredibly blessed to be able to give back.”

“Dave and I work together as a team and having experienced family members with health concerns it was very familiar to us to be able to enter into the lives of our guests.”

The Bakkers moved to the farm property 22 years ago and raised a family – Nicolette, Annalise and Jake – which has grown to include two son-in-laws, – “Jon and Phil are two of the greatest guys you could ask for,” – and four grandchildren.

“My mom as I was growing up had severe rheumatoid arthritis. I knew what it was like to live with a family member with a severe disability. Our daughter Nicolette was diagnosed with Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) a platelet disorder.”

“As a result of spending a lot of time at McMaster we came to understand what it was like to have a child with a medical condition,” Daphne said.

In 2012 the family spent the whole summer painting fence posts on the 12-acre farm. “We had a blast.” They renovated the barn and Daphne and Dave got a blessing from all their kids to begin the new chapter in their lives. They opened Haven of Hope Farm in October, 2013.

Life is precious and can be fraught with difficulties. The Bakkers and all their rural B&B has to offer give their guests rest for the journey. They are a profoundly caring couple.

“Having gone through a lot of these experiences ourselves we actually can understand their journey in a deeper way. Our desire is to give them a place to just be.”

“When we started the Haven of Hope Farm as a family we felt so blessed by what we had been given and we wanted to give back to our community in this way. We want to show them the warmth and hospitality and be able to meet them where they’re at with what they’re going through.”

“When guests come here there is a peace and stillness and the hospitality they receive, they often say, gives them renewed strength for their journey.”

“We have one apartment suite. We focus on one set of guests at a time so the hospitality they receive is very personal. We try to meet their needs. We allow them to come to us and we respect their privacy.”

“We do enjoy getting to know each guest. We talk together, cry together. They time they spend with us, they are allowing us into their world and we consider it such a privilege.”

“There are guests who come for rest between cancer treatments. We have family members from the hospice who come while they’re visiting their loved ones. There are people with disabilities and the suite is set up for all their needs.”

Haven of Hope also hosts day retreats for groups such as Grief Share which supports people who have lost loved ones.

It’s a lot of work and Daphne credits the “amazing help” that keeps everything right and running. “We have people who help us on the farm and we have a student helper. We have a great church family and friends.”

And the guests, Daphne says, give back to them in so many awesome ways. “We have a phrase, ‘enter as a guest, leave as a friend.”

Guests have called Haven of Hope “a wonderful place run by wonderful people.” They write about enjoying the Bakker’s company during “delightful country breakfasts” and remark that the private apartment is immaculately clean and the food amazing. They call it “a warm and welcoming home and a much-needed retreat.”

The reviews are heartfelt. Guests call the Haven of Hope Farm B&B “Five-plus Star” accommodation with full barrier-free accessibility in a quiet, rural setting.

“If you or anyone in your family is on a medical journey, your stay can be like a retreat where your strength is renewed and your soul restored.”

Another guest writes: “During my stay, Daphne ministered to me many times in many ways, from healing, lovingly prepared meals and juices; to kind, encouraging words; to prayers from the heart and more. She and Dave are a great team.”

The guest apartment is a private, fully accessible and tastefully decorated suite with a master bedroom, and private bathroom. The sitting room is equipped with recliners, dining table and chairs, fridge, microwave oven, kitchen amenities, electric fireplace and a closet with clothes washer and dryer.

Guests have exclusive use of the adjacent cozy fireplace room with comfortable furniture, Wifi, television, films, games and books.

The breakfast menu is changed each day and posted at the family dining table in the host kitchen.

“Chef Daphne offers numerous options including gluten and dairy-free dishes. The food is, well, simply delicious.” While the full farm style healthy breakfast can be served in the privacy of the suite, guests recommend partaking in the company of the most hospitable hosts.”

There are trails to walk, gardens to enjoy, a whimsical treehouse and play area, and a viewing deck into the conservation area to spot deer and wild turkeys. The animals, Suffolk sheep, alpacas and chickens are an important and special part of Haven of Hope Farm. They love visitors and the alpacas are a hit with their comical expressions.

It’s 12 acres of beauty and tranquility on a working sheep farm nestled in the Niagara Escarpment surrounded by lush vineyards and fruit orchards. It’s a place to retreat and savour the privacy in a time of stress and crisis.

Haven of Hope Farm B&B is located at 3315 Ninth St. Louth, Lincoln.

Phone 905-682-0059 or email