Tristan Emiry was at a 4-H Club Camp during the March Break last week when he learned through a text message that Espanola High School had won Rick Mercer's Spread the Net Challenge.
“I yelled pretty loud,” Emiry, a Grade 11 student at Espanola High School and prime minister of the school's student parliament, said. “Everybody was looking at me, and saying 'What the heck's going on?' It was funny.”
The students raised $13,307.91 for Spread the Net, an organization which supports the purchase and distribution of bed nets to children and families in Africa in order to help end malaria deaths.
Mercer announced the results of this year's challenge during the March 15 episode of his CBC television show, the Rick Mercer Report.
High schools and universities participating in the Spread the Net Challenge across the country raised $102,000 this year — enough for 10,200 bed nets. The top university participating in the challenge — the University of Northern British Columbia — raised $18,710.09.
Emiry, who organized the school's fundraising campaign, met Mercer March 18. He was given tickets to a taping of the Rick Mercer Report in Toronto.
“It was pretty cool,” Emiry said. “He's an absolutely hilarious guy just to talk to in person. It was an awesome experience. He came over and shook our hands during the show.”
Mercer is also due to visit Espanola High School March 23 to tape a segment of his show. The school's principal, Marty Punkari, said Mercer will participate in a school assembly, and also tape a segment with the school's senior boys' basketball team, which went to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships this year.
Emiry said he organized the school's participation in the Spread the Net Challenge not only because he's a fan of the Rick Mercer Report, but because he wanted to help prevent malaria. He said he curls with someone who has a friend who suffers from the disease.
According to spreadthenet.org, the initiative was born when former federal politician Belinda Stronach and Mercer travelled to Africa in 2005. Spread the Net was founded by Stronach and Mercer, in partnership with UNICEF Canada, after their 2005 trip. More than 500,000 nets have now been distributed by the organization to children and families in Africa.