By: Mike Anderson

One of Georgina’s local heroes is calling it a day. After a decade of organizing Perchin for MS, one of Lake Simcoe’s premier ice fishing derbies, and raising more than $186,000 for Multiple Sclerosis, Doug Poirier is moving on.

It’s was a hard decision. But Mr. Poirier’s MS has progressed to the point where he can no longer put in the time required to make the derby a success.

“This is our last year, so it’s kind of bittersweet for sure,” Mr. Poirier said. “I love what this has done. But every year it’s so much work, and my health has gotten worse.”

Diagnosed with MS in late 2009, Mr. Poirier started Perching for MS in 2010 to raise awareness about the disease and to encourage people with disabilities to get outside and stay active.

At the first derby, he was able to walk with a cane, but as the disease progressed, he was forced to use a motorized wheelchair equipped with tracks to get around on the ice.

But that didn’t stop him from building-up Perchin for MS into one of the lake’s most popular ice fishing derbies, attracting major sponsors, like Cabela’s, Rapala and Hummingbird, and 500 anglers most years.

But the biggest measure of success for Mr. Poirier has been raising funds and awareness for MS.

“I’m sort of a face for MS. I love the fact that I get a lot of people who come up to me and ask me about it. We get phone calls from a lot of people who have just been diagnosed. So that’s great.”

Mr. Poirier has also encouraged anglers with MS to participate, and each year between five and ten did so.

“I like the fact that people are getting excited to go fishing on the lake,” he said. “It’s a lot of work for someone who has MS. So it’s neat to see them come out and support us too.”

Held on February 29, this year’s event was another success with great draw prizes, sponsored contests, and a live and silent auction. In total, there was $50,000 in prizes up for grabs. There was also a charity barbecue and complimentary Tim Horton’s coffee and hot chocolate to keep everyone happy.

Despite warmer weather, nearly 300 anglers tried their luck on the ice off Sibbald Point Provincial Point. While the perch weren’t bitting for everyone, a lot of teams managed a respectable catch. There were first, second, and third place cash prizes for the ten biggest perch caught.

But a lot of anglers weren’t just in it for the prize money.

“It’s social. You make new friends,” said Tonia Cooper, who’s been fishing in the derby for the past three years. “But the main thing is to support Doug and his cause. More awareness needs to be raised for MS. More money for research to see if we can find a cure.”

After the weigh-in, an emotional Mr. Poirier took the opportunity to thank the folks that supported him and the derby for the past decade.

“We’ve been going for ten years. I can’t say how proud that makes me. I want to say thank you to our sponsors, the anglers, our volunteers, my friends and especially my family,” he said. “Both this event and I have had tremendous support, and I can’t say thank you enough. I hope people will remember this tournament for all the good it has done to help fight this debilitating disease.”

Over the years, money raised by the derby was donated to the MS Society, York North MS Chapter, funding yoga and support programs.

It also benefited MS sufferers and their supporters directly, through gift cards.

And, provided funding for the Assistive Technologies Clinic in the MS section of Baycrest Hospital, paying for treatments not covered by OHIP, including the use of anti-gravity machines, robotic exoskeleton physiotherapy, and specialty chairs and walkers.

1st Place: Todd Langley & Kraig Kavanagh – 10.66 lbs
2nd Place: Jesse Burden & Jan-Michael Burden – 10.45 lbs
3rd Place: Kyle Perry & Lance Boyd – 9.73 lbs
Biggest Fish: Al Russel & David Chong – 1.765 lbs