ST. LOUIS, Mo. (WJMN) – It started in May with a snowstorm in Minnesota. Now, more than 1,200 miles later, Nate Denofre is more than halfway along his mission to canoe the entire Mississippi River. The goal? To raise awareness for his non-profit, Courage Incorporated, and provide inspiration for disabled or differently-abled people.
Denofre and Erik Conradson cofounded Courage Inc., a nonprofit that helps individuals and veterans with disabilities participate in outdoor wilderness-based adventures.
On May 8, Denofre, a double-amputee, began the 2,500-mile-long adventure.
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 80’s, low 90’s. With heat and humidity, he 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,” said Conradson.
Along with raising awareness and inspiration, the mission is part fundraiser, with a $25,000 goal. So far, people have donated more than $10,000 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,” added Conradson.
He said not everyone has to go out and canoe the Mississippi River, just get out and try something new and not be 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, people who want to know what an adventure would look like for them.
Denofre and Jokinen have been fondly calling those who have helped them along the way ‘River Angels.’
“The outpouring of support and communication of people wanting to know more about us has been fantastic.”
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 Incorporated, they have canceled any upcoming adventures due to concerns from COVID-19. They are going to follow whatever the latest guidelines from health officials are, 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 having what they need to provide satisfactory adventures for people that will be safe and give them a memorable experience.
“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.”
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