Dal students respond to challenge

Rick Mercer to visit Dalhousie campus

- January 23, 2008

Friends gather at Victoria Jones' apartment to watch the Rick Mercer Report. (Ryan McNutt Photo)

Rick Mercer is coming to Dalhousie – not to rant, but to celebrate.

On this week’s edition of the Rick Mercer Report, the CBC television personality announced Dalhousie University as the winner of the Spread the Net Campus Challenge. The university community raised a total of $17,030, enough money for UNICEF to purchase over 1,700 bed nets to protect children in Africa from malaria-infected mosquito bites.

The three co-captains of the Dal effort – Victoria Jones, Hilary Taylor and Keith Torrie – knew that they were ahead of all other schools when the competition closed at the end of December. But the official word didn’t come until Tuesday night as the three gathered in Ms. Jones’ apartment to watch the Rick Mercer Report surrounded by friends and supporters.

The assembled crew sat through the show with nervous patience, watching Mr. Mercer practice synchronized swimming, ski at Whistler and rant about parliamentary visits to Afghanistan. By the time that he prepared to read the results of the Campus Challenge at the end of the program, the students were practically bouncing off the sofa with anticipation.

Those bounces turned into leaps and jubilant cheers as Dalhousie was announced as the winner. The celebratory noise in the room drowned out the end of the broadcast, requiring a rewinding of the VCR tape to relive the moment.

“It’s amazing,” exclaimed Ms. Jones after a second viewing. “Rick Mercer’s coming to our school!”

Cardboard Rick Mercer

“The real one too,” added Ms. Taylor, gesturing at the cardboard cutout of Mercer that had jokingly joined the viewing party (sporting his own Dalhousie “Spread the Net” T-shirt, no less). The flesh-and-blood Rick Mercer will be visiting Dalhousie sometime in the near future to film a segment of his show and to continue to promote the Spread the Net effort.

A total of 73 teams from 35 campuses across Canada took part in the Campus Challenge, raising over $112,000 for Spread the Net. Runners up were the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.

The Dalhousie co-captains credited the campus community for pulling together for a good cause. “We connected to so many societies who were willing to pitch in,” said Ms. Jones, who was also the single top fundraiser in the Campus Challenge. “People came out of the woodwork from across Dalhousie: the Deans, Health Services, Facilities Management, student societies, the DSU…they all pushed to spread the word.”

The other factor was the cause itself, which made it easy for people to make a difference in the lives of children at risk from Malaria. “It’s so simple an idea that it’s easy for anyone to understand it and get excited about it,” added Mr. Torrie.

And while winning a campus visit from Rick Mercer is a nice reward, all three co-captains say that it’s the cause that really matters, which is why they plan on continuing to support the Spread the Net effort in the months to come. After all, as Mercer himself puts it, “If there’s one thing better than saving a life, it’s saving a life while killing a mosquito.”


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