Mercer visits Pleasantdale School

The efforts of Pleasantdale School students to help spare children from the ravages of malaria have drawn the attention of Rick Mercer.

The popular host of the equally popular TV show The Mercer Report was in Estevan Monday to spend the day with Pleasantdale students and teachers. The visit was a result of Pleasantdale winning the elementary school division of the Spread the Net Student Challenge.

Launched in September by The Mercer Report, the challenge asked schools throughout Canada to raise money to purchase mosquito nets to fight malaria in Africa.

Pleasantdale was one of 45 schools to take part in the contest and the school's Grade 8 social justice program spearheaded the effort with an impressive $5,439 for the nets.

As one of three winners, Pleasantdale earned a visit from Mercer and the satirist was at the school for much of Monday filming material for an upcoming show.

At a morning assembly, Mercer explained to the students how he became interested in the fight against malaria.

"About two years ago I went to Africa with my friend Belinda Stronach," he said. "We visited five or six different countries and in some of the countries they were very poor. We would visit some towns, the size of your town and everything was very similar to a town in Canada. There were kids like yourselves that were going to school and there was corn growing in the fields and people were running around and having a good time.

"But then we would go 100 miles down the road and there would be another village and there weren't really any kids out playing and it wasn't a very active place."

Mercer said he became intrigued to learn why one community was so active compared to the others and discovered that some villages and towns were able to afford mosquito nets to protect their children from malaria while other, poorer areas, could not.

"My friend Belinda said 'when we go back to Canada we are going to have to tell all the people about this and we are going to have to figure out a way to get bed nets,'" Mercer said. "So we came up with the idea of Spread The Net. Ten dollars buys a net and saves a life."

Mercer said he was impressed by the efforts of Pleasantdale, noting that for its size they raised an incredible amount of money.

"Every now and then a school comes along and they punch way above their weight. They raise more money than anyone could ever imagine and Pleasantdale is one of those schools. You guys are amazing, you raised over $5,000 and that is over 500 bed nets. That is saving 500 lives, that is twice as many people that are in this school and you guys did that for children on the other side of the world."

Along with making a rock video with the students, Mercer also went tobogganing during his day at the school.

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