Fraternity brothers paddling for a cure
Lake Wilson native ready to take on a canoe trip to new Orleans in an effort to raise money for cancer research
BROOKINGS, S.D. - He has never gone more than eight miles at a time in a canoe, but Lake Wilson native Mark York isn't letting that stop him from taking on the adventure of a lifetime. He and three friends from the Delta Chi Fraternity at South Dakota State University are leaving Brookings, S.D. on June 20 to canoe the 2,300 miles to New Orleans, La., raising money for cancer research along the way.
"It is going to take two days just to get to Sioux Falls," York said with a grin. "We'll have to portage around some of it."
York, a 2007 graduate of Murray County Central, is the son of Jim and Rosie York. He is working on a double major in agronomy and mathematics. But this summer, he'll spend approximately two months on the water, along with Tony Temple of Mitchell, S.D., Jeff Hughes of Coon Rapids and Ben Wise of Lytton, Iowa.
The four fraternity brothers will travel in a canoe and two kayaks to New Orleans, the site of the 2010 Delta Chi International Convention, raising money for the V Foundation, which was created to honor Rutgers basketball coach Jimmy Valvano to fund research for the fight against cancer. Delta Chi partnered with the V Foundation in 1998 and has raised more than $1 million in that time. The fraternity has pledged $130,000 to the foundation this year.
The four fraternity brothers are hoping to raise anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 to go toward a $130,000 research grant.
They will start out portaging their gear and canoes to Deer Creek, canoe the six miles to the Big Sioux River, then hop on the Missouri River 181 miles later. From there, they will travel 900 miles or so before meeting up with the Mississippi River.
"It's about 1,100 miles from St. Louis to New Orleans," York said. "I've never been to New Orleans before and I'm looking forward to seeing it."
Armed with hundreds of pages of navigational charts, the four will also carry water, sleeping bags, non-perishable items and little else. They have built a few days into the schedule for a bit of sight seeing, but, according to York, that doesn't mean they won't end up paddling "for all we are worth" to get to their final destination.
"We have to keep supplies to a minimum because there isn't much space, but we hope to have a few people along the route bring us a hot meal," York admitted. "That will be much appreciated."
The four men are asking for donations and pledges, 100 percent of which goes into the research foundation. An endowment at the V Foundation covers all administrative costs, York said, so all money raised can go toward research. Along they way, they will continue to seek donations. They are hoping people will seek them out at their nightly campsites to make donations, and have been trying to raise funds before they hit the water.
When asked what his parents' reaction to the canoe trip was, York laughed and searched for the right words.
"Let's just say they are all a bit apprehensive," he finally stated.
He acknowledged there are dangers involved, but they are doing their best to keep them to a minimum by studying the navigational maps and only planning to paddle from sunup to sundown.
"We estimate we can make about 50 miles a day," York said. "We'll try to get as far as we can each day, and there are plenty of parks along the rivers to stay at each night."
The benefits of the trip, he said, far outweigh the risks. With the light of an adventure shining in his eyes, York is looking forward to the experience.
All of the sets of parents and anyone else will be able to follow the progress of the four men at www.canoeingforthecure.webs.com. The site will be updated twice a week with details and photos from their adventure. The site contains profiles of each of the participants, links to information about the V Foundation and a link for donations.
At the end of the trip, York said, they will probably sell their canoes.
"Actually, we're thinking about biking back," he added with a grin.