By Howard Meyerson
Every now and then we get an opportunity to express in life those things we hold dear – a point where we live our ideals. Gary and Linda DeKock are two such people who do that regularly, but on July 19, when they launch their tandem kayak on Minnesota’s Lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, they will be challenged to do that daily.
The Grand Rapids couple plans to paddle 2,291 miles down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. The trip is a fund-raiser for “Water for People (WFP), a Denver Colorado nonprofit that provides safe, clean water to villages in nine third-world countries. The DeKocks hope to raise at least $11,455, using a crowd-sourcing website called Crowdrise. That translates to $5 for each mile paddled.
“The cool thing about Water for People is they work on sustainable solutions,” exclaims 63-year-old Linda DeKock, a self-employed vocational rehabilitation consultant. “First-world people usually go and put in a well – then stand back and say: ‘There! Everyone is happy.’ And five years later the well doesn’t work – and the women are still walking five miles to get water. Water for People tries to go beyond that and have local communities invested in the outcome.
“Gary wanted to do a bike trip from Chicago to New Orleans, but I didn’t want to; I don’t like being on highways. So I said: ‘Why don’t we paddle from Chicago to New Orleans?’ He got a look on his face and said. ‘If we’re going to be on the Mississippi, we should do the whole thing.’” Continue reading