April 22, 2010 10:11 ET

Canadians Spread the Net to 2.5 Million Children

Rick Mercer and Belinda Stronach's challenge to Canadians is answered

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 22, 2010) - Ten dollars may not seem like much but multiply that by 500,000 donations and Canadians have just saved 2.5 million lives. Strange math? Maybe - but the end result is amazing. Spread the Net, a grassroots campaign to purchase and distribute anti-malarial bed nets founded by The Honourable Belinda Stronach and comedian Rick Mercer, has achieved what it first set out to do: raise funds to provide 500,000 nets for the children of Liberia and Rwanda.

The campaign was launched by Mercer and Stronach in 2006 in partnership with UNICEF Canada as a result of a trip to Africa. In just a few short years, it has turned into an amazing charitable success story thanks to Canadians from coast-to-coast. Thousands of individuals, schools, communities, teams and corporations have joined the malaria fight donating $5 million to date or enough for 500,000 nets.

Malaria is one of the principal killers in the developing world. It affects between 190 -330 million people each year. It claims the lives of 3,000 children each day; that's one every 30 seconds. Staggering? Yes. Hopeless? No. A simple, $10 long-lasting, insecticide-treated net is the most cost effective and efficient way to prevent the spread of malaria. Sleeping under a net, which often up to five children do, has been proven to reduce the incidence of malaria by as much as 50 per cent.

"A war on mosquitoes is one that I knew Canadians would join!" said Rick Mercer. "Canadians have done some incredible work on behalf of Spread the Net, particularly students who are responsible for raising over $1 million. All I can say is thank you!"

Notable Canadians like Seamus O'Regan (CTV Canada AM), Hayley Wickenheiser (3-time Olympic Gold Medalist), David Miller (Toronto Mayor), Ray Zahab (Extreme Marathoner), Glen Pearson (MP London North Centre), Ian Thornley (singer/songwriter), Tie Domi (former NHLer and sports commentator), Paul Venoit (celebrity make up artist and TV personality), the Toronto FC's Jim Brennan and captain Dwayne De Rosario have all lent their support to the campaign along with Cheryl Hickey, Host of ET Canada, who recently joined as the newest Spread the Net ambassador.

"I have been to Liberia and have met the families whose lives could be saved by these bed nets," said Seamus O'Regan. "The 500,000 nets is more than a number; this is a real accomplishment that saves lives."

"The campaign has been an incredible success however the need for nets has not ended," according to co-founder, Belinda Stronach. "Global and grassroots efforts like Spread the Net are making a difference but much more work is to be done if we are going to reverse malaria incidence and ultimately deaths as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals have called upon us to do."

The United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria estimates that some 156 million more nets are needed to achieve the goal of universal bed net coverage, a key target in the elimination of malaria deaths.

"We are so grateful to Canadians for helping us get bed nets to children in Africa whose lives are at risk from malaria," said UNICEF Canada Acting President and CEO Kimberly Moran. "But we cannot stop now. Thousands of children are still getting sick and dying from malaria every day and they urgently need our help."

Ambassador Hayley Wickenheiser is proud of Canadians and encourages them to keep giving. "Delivering 500,000 nets to save millions of lives proves that when people put their collective minds and energies together anything is possible but nets are still needed so we can't stop now."

The Toronto FC's Jim Brennan added "We can't stop at 500,000 nets. We must all keep pushing forward to meet the ultimate goal of ending malaria!"

In the lead up to World Malaria Day 2010, marked each year on April 25, Spread the Net also received support from Derlea Brand Foods Inc. who committed 2,500 nets as part of a newly launched Moms Helping Moms campaign. Visit www.derlea.com for more information.

As another example of unique grassroots support, eight young Canadian Faiths Act Fellows have reached out to communities of faith in Canada to raise funds to acquire nets, action that has contribute to meeting and will contribute to surpassing the Spread the Net goal. The Fellows program is an initiative of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation (see www.tonyblairfaithfoundation.org/fellows).

The goal of 500,000 nets was set as a founding target and Spread the Net is thrilled to have hit that goal but will continue to work at a grassroots level with the support of the co-founders and ambassadors to rally Canadians to keep spreading the net.

"If something so simple as helping to put nets in the hands of families can limit the loss of life, I want to do all that I can," said Cheryl Hickey, Host of ET Canada and the newest Spread the Net ambassador.

For more information on the campaign or to donate please visit www.spreadthenet.org.

About Spread the Net

Spread the Net is a largely web-based campaign designed to educate, motivate and inspire Canadians to help eradicate malaria by fundraising to support the purchase and distribution of anti-malarial bed nets. The campaign was founded in 2006 by Belinda Stronach and Rick Mercer. For more information, please visit www.spreadthenet.org .


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

Contact Information

  • For interview requests or additional information on Spread
    the Net please contact: The Belinda Stronach Foundation
    Tiffani Steer
    Director, Programming and Operations
    416-531-1919 ext 227