The Last Paddle: Yoopers canoeing entire Mississippi River to finish journey Monday

National News

Photo courtesy of Paddling to Persevere.

GULF OF MEXICO (WJMN) – It has been over three months since the voyage began down the Mighty Mississippi River for Nate Denofre, his wife Christa (and their pup), and veteran Don Jokinen. As of Monday, the last few miles of the journey are closing in.

Paddling through a pandemic and hurricane season wasn’t for a fun summer excursion, however. The “Paddling to Persevere” campaign was to bring awareness and raise funds for Courage Incorporated, a non-profit that helps veterans and individuals with disabilities “find feelings of accomplishment and self-confidence through free wilderness excursions.”

Thousands of people tuned in to live streams and any other updates about the trip on the organization’s Facebook pages, Courage Incorporated and Paddling to Persevere.

As the voyage comes to an end and their canoe enters the Gulf of Mexico, Denofre was able to send Local 3 a statement on how it feels to finish this accomplishment:

Not everyone has to canoe the Mississippi River. For some people, a simple walk around the block, a trip to the grocery store, the first steps after an amputation, or accepting an invite to the park might be the catalyst to improving their outlook. You have to change your perspective to be able to change your life – and that is what this trip was designed to show. In a time of unrest, turmoil, and conflict, we have seen the absolute best in humanity. We’ve seen the best of people from one end of the country to the other, from North to South – over 2,500 miles of people willing to lend a hand. These River Angels have shown us that we can overcome adversity if we just come together and help each other. We didn’t just receive help from these people, we made friends with these people. They will be our friends for life. It is hard to put into words how good it truly feels in our hearts to be able to finish this trip. To be able to raise funds for Courage Incorporated and inspiring others in the face of a global pandemic, an economic crash, civil unrest, and through two hurricanes… well, that is perseverance!

Courage Incorporated’s Executive Director Erik Conradson also gave a statement:

“It feels great to finish something of this magnitude and to persevere through really tough times. The trip for Nate has been more mental than it has been physical. Sleeping in the mud, the bugs, the unpredictable weather, and all of the other challenges along the way have made it hard to wake up and get back on the river. But the whole point is to push though those roadblocks, to show people that despite whatever challenges they face, there is a way to get through them. It is hard to start something because fear may be holding you back – but remember, without fear, you cannot have courage”

Don Jokinen

Former combat veteran Don Jokinen left the Denofre’s back in July to go on his own solo mission down the Mississippi. He’s calling his efforts “22 Stay Alive”, raising awareness for other combat-injured/disabled troops and “elevate the issue of health and well being for our servicemen and women upon their return home.” You can follow his journey on his Facebook page.

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