A washer toss tourney for the record books: Horizon employees team-up to help set world record
The premature passing of Avery Astle and his three friends resonated with people from across New Brunswick, and what happened in the hours following Avery’s death sounded the alarm regarding gaps in coverage for tissue donation. Due to a shortage of trained staff, Avery Astle’s family was unable to have their son assessed for eligibility to become a tissue donor. This made an already terrible situation even more difficult. Michelle Astle, a social worker and long-term Horizon employee always knew the value of organ and tissue donation, so when presented with the earth-shattering news her son had died, it was an easy and quick decision to see if her son’s organs or tissues could be donated. Unfortunately, it was not possible. In the months since his passing, Michelle continues to be an advocate for organ and tissue donation, wanting to ensure changes are made so that no other family will live the same experience. Today, the NB Organ and Tissue Program has put in place changes to address identified gaps in service for eye/corneas and other tissue donation, with the program’s goal to provide all families the opportunity to donate. The organ donation team continues to provide 24/7 coverage and its services were not affected by the shortage. When the PEI/NB Barrel Horse Association hosted their “Race from the Heart show” fundraiser in Sussex Aug. 23 to 25, they selected New Brunswick’s Organ and Tissue Program as the recipient of their fundraising efforts as part of the #4AV movement in memory of Avery. Riders and their horses wore green (the official ribbon colour for organ and tissue donation) for the occasion. An amount of $600 was raised and presented to representatives from the NB Organ and Tissue Program, and Michelle Astle traveled from Miramichi to be in attendance. The money raised will contribute to raising awareness on the importance of organ and tissue donation. Horizon is thankful to the Astle family for being champions and advocating for changes and awareness for organ and tissue donation. The Astle family plans to establish the 4Av Foundation in memory of their son to raise awareness and help those in need. NB Organ and Tissue Program receives donation, thanks to Astle family
A pair of Horizon employees in Fredericton are now written in the history books — a big, giant, flashy, world-record-setting history book to be exact. Mike Gulliver, a painter at Horizon’s Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital and Romeo Leblanc, an administrative assistant at Fredericton Addiction and Mental Health Services were part of the World’s Largest Washer Toss Tournament. The record was set at the Come Home East Hants Association’s Tide Fest in 2017, and – after official video recordings and photographs were submitted and reviewed by the Guinness World Book of Records team — just became official earlier this year. The entry appears in the 2020 edition, published on Sept. 5. And not only were they part of the record- holding tournament — they won it! The path to victory Gully, as he’s known in the washer toss world, throws washers all-year long, but it was during the summers where his game really took off. He started playing at campgrounds, and the uniqueness of the backyard game drew people to his site. People asked where they could buy washer toss sets, and since they were not yet mass- manufactured, Mike started building them and would always bring a couple sets and sell them. He had been playing for 25 years before Romeo even started, but Romeo was no stranger to sports: he was busy being a champion bowler. They met at Mike’s annual backyard tournament a few summers ago, where Romeo was picked as Mike’s niece’s husband’s teammate. The pair went on to win the tournament.
The record attempt saw 304 teams — 608 participants — battle it out at the East Hants Sportsplex in Lantz, N.S. over three days.
The crowd was an intimidating, but exciting addition to the atmosphere.
Consistency is key — consistency and how fast and what angle the washer is thrown. “You get a lot of bounce,” said Romeo. “You’re throwing a steel, three-inch washer into a wooden box, so if it comes in too fast it’s going to bounce out.” A few triple pipe shots (all three of their washers in the pipe) don’t hurt either. Asked if they’ve ever made that shot comes the response: “Oh, plenty of times.” A game can last upwards of 45 minutes, but during the tournament many of their games were done within five to seven minutes as they were playing against a lot of non- competitive teams there to support the shot at the record. At Tide Fest they used official supplied washers; at other tournaments they usually bring their own. Both throw under-hand, but some players throw over-hand, and both carry a washer pick-up tool. “When you walk around with a magnet,” Romeo said, of the sawed-off driver he keeps on him, “they know you’ve been playing this game.” What’s next? Both have since scaled back on their washer toss playing. Mike won the tournament on an injury. He had a previous injury from 12 years prior, and the weekend before the tournament ripped a tendon and rotator cuff in his shoulder and couldn’t move his arm. “I won that tournament twice on a bad shoulder and lost it on a good one — it doesn’t make any sense!” he said, adding he had surgery last fall and is feeling better. The competition has stepped up and winning is more difficult now, but it’s still the sport they love most. “It’s quite a world,” Mike said. “Where else can you drink some beer, have some fun, make some money, and get in the World Book of Records?”
Romeo Leblanc, an administrative assistant at Fredericton Addiction and Mental Health Services (left) and Mike Gulliver, a painter at Horizon’s Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital (DECRH) are photographed at the DECRH holding their Guinness World Book of Records certificates.
“That got me hooked on it and I just went from there and tried to improve my game,” said Romeo, who previously worked in Food Services and Patient Information. “He’s a natural,” said Mike, who has been with Horizon for 12 years. Romeo heard about Tide Fest on social media and was intrigued organizers were going for a world record. He didn’t have a partner at the time, and advertised himself as a free agent. Despite the event being sandwiched between the Worlds, held in Stanley, and the NB Cup (yes, those are other washer toss tournaments), Mike couldn’t turn down this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and said, “Yes.” The washer toss tournament of all washer toss tournaments The record saw 304 teams — 608 participants — in men’s, women’s, mixed and non- competitive divisions battle it out at the East Hants Sportsplex in Lantz, N.S. over three days.
Mike and Romeo lost the Friday night New Brunswick-Nova Scotia cup (coming second) but beat out all other teams in the single- elimination tournament to win $2,000 and have the honour of having their names appear in the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records. It was a mix of intense pressure (a crowd of over 100 people watching) and intense camaraderie amongst players from across Atlantic Canada and as far as Wise County, Texas, the region that previously held this record. “It was great. It was amazing. The first day especially, when they were getting all the teams to walk into the dome,” said Romeo. “It was pretty amazing to be there for a record attempt. It was special.” They won again in 2018 (and the Friday night cup, too). This year they played on separate teams (Mike’s team came second). Train like a champ What makes a champion washer toss player?
How to Play Washer Toss Washer toss is played with two 12x12 boxes, each with a three-inch pipe in the middle, placed 20-feet apart. One player from each team stands behind the front edge of one of the boxes and throws a washer towards the other. A player from each team throws all a total of three washers before his or her competitor. You get two points for landing a washer in the box; you get three points for landing a washer in the pipe. But the score is only tallied after your competitor has thrown, and your competitor can easily nullify those points. Only one team can score in a round. “If you put all three in the box, then your competitor has to do the same to cancel out your points (same goes for washers in the pipe). If not, you earn those points. If he puts one in the pipe, he not only cancels your points, but earns three for his team,” explains Romeo. Each game goes to 21 points. Usually, a best of three match is played.
From left: Tammy Smith, NPBHA President; Michelle Astle, Avery Astle’s mother; and Nadya Savoie, Administrative Director, NB Organ and Tissue Program.
Washer toss cheque presentation. The duo won $2,000.
Look Who’s Shining! Know someone who’s accomplished something outstanding outside the workplace? Nominate a colleague, peer or volunteer for this feature by emailing HorizonStar@HorizonNB.ca .
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