A husband and wife team is embarking on a three-month paddling trip down the Missouri River to raise money for an organization that helps provide safe water and sanitation to millions of people.
Gary and Linda De Kock, a couple from Grand Rapids, Michigan, are well under way on a 2,341-mile canoe trip that began at Three Forks, Montana, and will conclude in St. Louis.
They launched their 17-foot canoe into the river June 2 and are expected to complete their journey approximately Aug. 24.
Their river trek brought them to the Leavenworth area this week.
The couple is using the trip to raise money for Water For People, an international nonprofit organization that brings safe water and sanitation to people in Third World countries.
The De Kocks said they have raised more than $24,000 so far on the trip. They have received donations ranging from $5,000 to $5.
Gary De Kock, a retired wastewater supervisor, said the organization helps millions of people every year.
“Water For People projects are things like putting in water wells, sanitation services and education for children’s hygiene,” he said.
This is not the first time the De Kocks have taken a long river voyage to raise money for the organization. In 2014, they paddled 2,291 miles down the Mississippi River for 70 days to raise $17,000 for Water For People.
In the last five years, they have raised approximately $65,000 for the organization on their river voyages.
The paddlers get assistance all along the way from the River Angels, a loosely organized group of volunteers who can follow the progress of the paddlers online and care for their needs when they arrive.
Clinton Marsh of Leavenworth volunteers as a River Angel and met with the De Kocks upon their arrival. He took them out to eat at a downtown restaurant and gave them a short tour of Leavenworth.
Marsh said the River Angels assist paddlers on such things as washing clothes, going to the store, charging batteries and more.
Linda De Kock said it’s not only the River Angels who have been generous. People interested in helping along the river route have shown them “amazing generosity.”
“It’s amazing when people don’t help,” Linda said. “The generosity we experience changes the way you look at humanity.”
“It’s beyond generosity,” Gary said. “It’s kindness and thoughtfulness.”
For more information, to track their progress or to donate, visit Paddle With Purpose River Voyages on Facebook.