ST. LOUIS, Mo. (WJMN) — It started in May with a snowstorm in Minnesota. Now, more than 1,200 miles later, a man from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is more than halfway along his mission on the Mississippi River.
The goal is to raise awareness for his nonprofit, Courage Incorporated, and provide inspiration for people with disabilities.
Nate Denofre and Erik Conradson both founded Courage Inc., a nonprofit that helps individuals and veterans with disabilities participate in outdoor wilderness-based adventures.
New 8’s sister station, WJMN, talked to Denofre in February about his goals for the mission.
WJMN spoke with Conradson on Tuesday about the journey so far. He says over the last week, Denofre has been dealing with temperatures in the high 80s, low 90s. With heat and humidity, Denofre says it’s felt like well over 100 degrees.
“It’s been brutal for them the last week or so, just staying hydrated and dealing with the sun,” Conradson said.
Along with raising awareness and inspiration, the mission is part of a fundraiser, with a $25,000 goal. So far, people have donated about than $10K to their cause. The money goes back into their organization to fund future adventures for clients.
“Showing people that despite having a disability or different abilities, you can still get out and do something, challenge your mindset challenge your previous way of thinking by trying something new and different. Hopefully, it’s the first step in doing something they thought they might not be able to do,” Conradson added.
He said not everyone has to go out and canoe the Mississippi River and that they should just get out and try something new, not being afraid to do it.
“It’s been inspiring to see how many people have been willing to step up during this mission. Whether it’s people offering a drink of water, or letting them stay in their home during bad weather or offering to do their laundry for them. So many people have come forward to offer some kind of assistance and really put a renewed faith from our perspective in humanity.”
It seems the mission is working. Conradson said they’ve received a tremendous amount of messages from people interested in volunteering and people who want to know what an adventure would look like for them.
“The outpouring of support and communication of people wanting to know more about us has been fantastic,” Conradson said.
They’ve received messages from people saying they are inspired by the trip. Conradson says former clients have reached out and said seeing what they are doing has given them a renewed sense of adventure.
The trip is taking longer than expected because of all the time Denofre is spent connecting with people. Conradson added that less than a week ago, Denofre met the Sutherland family. Their two children are affected by a medical condition. He believes Denofre made an impact on their lives by sharing his experience with them for an afternoon.
In terms of Courage Inc., they have canceled upcoming adventures due to concerns from COVID-19. They are going to follow the latest guidelines from health officials, but are hopeful that by winter, they could start their ice fishing programs again.
They are using the downtime to evaluate equipment needs, make upgrades and make a renewed focus on providing satisfactory and memorable adventures.
“After Nate returns, we’re going to reevaluate where we’re at, not just in terms of adventures, but what has he learned on this trip that we can institute that locally,” Conradson said.
You can follow along the journey on the Courage Incorporated and Paddling to Perservere Facebook pages.