Canoeing the Mississippi for charity

A Florida man is canoeing the length of the Mississippi River to raise money for charity.

He’s currently in La Crosse raising awareness for the nonprofit ShelterBox, a disaster-relief organization that’s helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

ShelterBox is a nonprofit based in England that’s partnered with Rotary International.

They’ve donated supplies for victims of disasters like the 2010 earth-quake in Haiti and Hurricane Sandy.

Erik Elsea says he was moved to make this journey after meeting one of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s been better than I ever dreamed of,” Elsea said.

Elsea is paddling 2,552 miles down the Mississippi. He’s trying to raise a $100 for every mile he paddles.

“It’s a pretty ambitious goal but with Rotary’s support and support of people, I think we’ll hit our goal,” Elsea said.

Elsea is hoping to raise more than a quarter million dollars from Rotary clubs along the way and individual donors. The La Crosse Rotary club has exceeded his expectations.

Todd Restel President La Crosse Rotary Club

“Our club, I think to date, we’ve raised about 1,200 dollars. So I know his goal for our club was a thousand,” said Todd Restel President La Crosse Rotary Club

Elsea says this journey is something he’s always wanted to do.

“ShelterBox is my passion and this has been my childhood dream: to canoe the entire Mississippi. So the fact that I get to do both of those–support ShelterBox and fulfill my childhood dream–it’s just been an amazing experience,” Elsea said.

So far things people have been welcoming and the views are breathtaking.

“The beauty of the northern Mississippi here in Minnesota and Wisconsin it’s absolutely gorgeous,” Elsea said.

But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

“I was dealing with 30 to 40 mph wind gusts, and you just hunker down and pay attention and let your experience work for you,” Elsea said.

Elsea said any hardships are worth it to raise money for ShelterBox.

“Our boxes provide shelter, warmth and dignity on people’s worst day ever. After they’ve lost everything,” Elsea said.

Elsea was moved to do this after he met a man from New Orleans who received a box after he lost everything from Hurricane Katrina.

“He was just so thankful that he had a safe place for him and his family to sleep. It was almost two weeks that he stayed in one of our tents before FEMA was able to get him a temporary trailer to his property.”

If Elsea reaches his goal of raising $250,000 he willbe able to donate 250 shelter boxes

“The fact that there are people that have a warm, safe place to sleep tonight because of something I’ve enjoyed doing, it’s just absolutely a fantastic experience,” Elsea said.

Elsea is canoeing all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

He hopes to be there by October. 5.

To learn more about the journey go to mississippiexpedition.com

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