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Rick Mercer slaps on the boards in northern Ontario for special needs children

'I knew North Bay would look beautiful, and after talking to the organizers of the program, it just seemed like one of those great stories,' Mercer said
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Comedian Rick Mercer, spent Sunday at Laurentian Ski Hill with the Nipissing Trackers, taping them for an upcoming segment of the Rick Mercer Report to air on CBC television.

Nipissing Trackers, a free downhill ski program for special needs children, has been changing lives for nearly 30 years.

This year is the biggest season yet, with 30 volunteers providing approximately 350 lessons to roughly 50 students, and their families over a five-week period. 

It was a story Nipissing Trackers felt needed to be told but it took a year to coordinate the shoot. 

Mercer explained that this story hit all the elements of a classic Mercer Report.

"If we have someone doing something really interesting, in a beautiful part of the country, and there's action on top of that, then those are the three things that make a great segment. And I know the area. I knew North Bay would look beautiful, and after talking to the organizers of the program, it just seemed like one of those great stories. It has been around forever, it is purely volunteer, and the story kind of told itself."  

Mercer said the first parent he spoke to was a mother whose child has benefited from being in the program.

"She has a son who is in a wheelchair, and you think when you have a child who is in a wheelchair that there's going to be all these things that they're never going to be able to do, and certainly skiing is one of them, and now, skiing is available to him. And not only that, the skis are provided, the helmet is provided, the instructors are provided all free of charge, and she said straight up that she would never be able to afford that. So it totally changed her life and her son's life, and that's an amazing story to tell."

Nipissing Trackers Program coordinator Rick Taylor says it was a rewarding experience for all involved.  

"I think Rick Mercer got more out of this than he was thinking, because we taught him how to ski backward, and then we let him take a student down the hill, and he thought that was amazing. I think they really enjoyed their time here. Rick and the whole crew interacted really well with all of the kids. Everybody had a great time." 

At one point, Mercer and student Dylan Rivenbark, took to the hill on bi-skis.

"He was something else. He was like, directing the piece after about an hour," said Mercer.

"He was like 'make sure your cameraman gets a shot of this,' and 'you're going to put this in aren't you?' Yeah, he was kind of trying to take control of the production. Maybe that's what he'll end up doing."

The final season of the Rick Mercer Report wraps up in a few short weeks. Nipissing Trackers organizers will be contacted when the segment is scheduled to air.