Stuck at sea, crew of HMCS Winnipeg finds novel way to exercise, raise funds for local charity

HMCS Winnipeg seen in North Vancouver on July 1, 2019. Crew on the ship have found an novel way to get exercise and raise money for a local charity.
HMCS Winnipeg seen in North Vancouver on July 1, 2019. Crew on the ship have found an novel way to get exercise and raise money for a local charity. Simon Little / Global News

The crew of a Royal Canadian Navy frigate named in honour of Winnipeg is running around in circles to help raise money for a local charity.

When sailors on the HMSC Winnipeg found themselves getting restless with COVID-19 restrictions keeping them on board the ship during port stops, they decided to make their solution — running around the frigate’s flight deck — into a win-win for the Manitoba Firefighters Burn Fund.

Read more: HMCS Winnipeg: On-board the Ferrari of ships

The crew is taking donations as they endeavor to run the equivalent distance from Esquimalt, B.C. (where the ship is based) to Winnipeg and back over the course of their current six-month deployment on the Pacific Ocean.

The just shy of 5,000 km trek works out to roughly 65,000 trips around the ship’s flight deck.

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“The flight deck on the ship is the area on the back part of the ship where we launch and land the helicopter — it’s an area about 50-feet by 100-feet,” explained HMCS Winnipeg Commander Mike Stefanson.

“A team is running circles around that daily.”

Read more: Watch: HMCS Winnipeg rammed by fishing trawler

Stefanson said crew members normally get the opportunity to stretch their sea legs on dry land when the ship makes stops during long deployments, but there are strict new rules amid the pandemic.

“What that means, unfortunately, is that the port visits are very curtailed. There’s a lot fewer than we would normally have and when we do go [in]to port, we have to basically stay on the ship or a small area on the pier beside the ship,” Stefanson told 680 CJOB over the phone from somewhere on the east China Sea.
Mike Stefanson, Commander of the HMCS Winnipeg.
Mike Stefanson, Commander of the HMCS Winnipeg. Submitted

“So it’s a bit different but you find ways to keep yourself occupied.

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“In this case, it’s running around the flight deck to make some money for charity.”

Stefanson says the HMCS Winnipeg — which has a crew of roughly 250 — landed on helping the Manitoba Firefighters Burn Fund because they’ve been working with the charity since the ship was commissioned in 1995.

Read more: Manitoba burn survivors to benefit from $2M donation to HSC Foundation

Manitoba Firefighter’s Burn Fund chair Martin Johnson said he was thrilled to find out about the unusual fundraising effort.

“That was a very encouraging and pleasant call to get,” he said of the unexpected message he received from the other side of the world.

“It’s very cool — quite cool.”

And the effort couldn’t come at a better time for the burn fund, which Johnson says has had to curtail its regular fundraising because of the pandemic.

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“So it was an unexpected bonus to hear that the ship’s crew is doing this,” he said, adding the volunteer organization supports adult and child burn program at the Health Sciences Centre and children’s hospital.

The effort had brought in just under $3,500 by Tuesday afternoon, and Stefanson said the crew doesn’t have a final fundraising goal in mind.

Read more: Manitoba burn survivors share struggles, hope at annual conference

“Our goal is to raise as much money as we possibly can,” he said.

Donations to the project can be made at