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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: Swimming Lake Okanagan in the Defense of Freedom

This article is part of a series featuring the amazing individuals who offer their time and talents to fundraise for us.

Rather than introducing this interview with a lawyer joke, I will offer this quote by American author Napoleon Hill: "Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.”

We asked Dawson to share with us his story of dedication and effort to raise funds for the cause of justice.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Dawson McKay and I am from Kelowna, British Columbia. I am a lawyer working out of Vernon, British Columbia. I was recently called to the bar. My wife and I also just had our fourth child, so it is a busy time for me.

Why are you passionate about issues of injustice?

Justice has become a passion for me for a number of reasons. First, I think would be my faith as a Christian. Second, my profession as a lawyer. Justice is an issue I cannot get away from – in a good way. And third, which may actually need to be first, I am a human being. Justice is naturally something that I care about. I believe that it’s innate to human beings who are created in God’s image that we care about issues of justice and about one another.

How did you learn about IJM?

I learned about IJM in 2005 when I was traveling in India with an organization called "Youth With A Mission”. YWAM gives young Christians the opportunity to serve in communities around the world. I was doing my outreach in Chennai, India when I first met a few International Justice Mission lawyers. They told me about their organization and I learned that they were about to partner with local authorities in a rescue operation. Since my first introduction to IJM, I’ve spent hours engaging with the subject of injustice through reading, including a book by CEO Gary Haugen called, "The Locust Effect.” This led to my desire to fundraise for the organization.

What are you doing to fight injustice?

On July 16th, 2016, bright and early at 8 a.m., I will be swimming across Lake Okanagan. The "Across the Lake” swim in Kelowna is 2.1 kilometres and while I have never been an athlete or a swimmer, I’ve wanted to do it ever since I watched the race last year. I started training last November; first with 10 laps across the pool, then 12, 15, 20, 43 and so on until I was regularly able to do 60 laps – which is 1.5 kilometres. Occasionally I will reach 80 laps, which is 2 kilometres. I started swimming in open water back in May of this year, and have managed to get up to 1.6 kilometres. Swimming in open water is different than a pool. The water is colder (today it is a balmy 18 degrees), the conditions are rougher, and it takes a mental fortitude that isn’t necessary when the poolside is only metres away and a lifeguard is constantly watching. The 2.1 kilometres will require almost an hour of hard swimming. But the cause is worth it.

What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in the process?

One of the challenges has been making people aware of what IJM actually does. Many people do not even realize that slavery still exists, let alone that there are over 45 million of them. And if they do realize, they often haven’t heard that there is an organization like IJM trying to fight that problem. Through personal discussions and social media, I am constantly informing others of the work that IJM does and of the need that exists.

Describe your favourite moment from fundraising or training thus far.

I think my favourite moment was when I first swam 1.6 kilometres in open water! It was an incredible sense of accomplishment from where I have come. Also, every time a donation rolls in I feel a little thrill. Right now we are up to just over $1,800 out of my goal of $5,000 (the cost of a rescue), but I do not believe that my goal is that far out of reach. And with what I’ve raised, I’ve already funded over a month of investigations.

Any advice for others who want to host a fundraising event?

Do something that will grab others’ attention, and be very positive about it. Send out a bunch of messages on social media, and ask people who are close to you for support. The most important lesson is to follow up on any offer or opportunity, even if it doesn’t look like it will go anywhere. You have absolutely no idea where it will go.

Actually, even more important than what I just said is to just go and do it. No one told me to swim 2.1 kilometres and raise thousands, I just decided I would. When in doubt just do what is right.

How can someone support you?

You can visit my fundraising page, or if you are in the area you are welcome to watch the event and cheer me on. I will also still be collecting donations after the fact – once I’ve proven that I can actually swim that far.

There are a million ways to give and if you don’t want to give to IJM through my event, I’m fine with that. Just give to IJM one way or another. You can go onto their website and hit donate. It’s not that hard.

Just for fun – If you had intro music, what song would it be and why?

It would be a version of "We Are The Champions,” but certainly not the actual song because I am not a champion of anything! I think I would rewrite the lyrics to say, "We are the people who barely make it across the lake, but are doing this for our good health and justice around the world.” I know it might be long, but it’s far more accurate.

To learn more about fundraising, or to create your own event, visit our Fundraise Page.

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