By Ken Robertshaw, Rotary Club of Halifax, Yorkshire
On 7 August, my friend Grace and I set out on an expedition to kayak the length of the Mississippi River. We completed the journey on 4 October.
Our goal was to raise funds for a charity in the United Kingdom, The Theodora Children’s Trust, that places specialist entertainers in Children’s hospitals and hospices to cheer up ill children and assist their recovery through laughter.
The journey was not without problems. We encountered severe electrical storms, woke one morning to find our sandbar campsite disappearing under water, suffered personal injuries, endured days of isolation, and had to avoid 250,000-tonne ships as they made their way along our route to the sea.
But the most abiding memory we have is of the people. Complete strangers would take us to local shops to buy supplies, allow us to camp on their property, and then give us a meal. Some paid for our fees at organized campsites and some even gave us a bed for the night. Not one single person ever refused us help — even when we had been on the river for days on end without opportunity for showers. We must have looked terrible, but they weren’t put off, especially when we explained what we were doing.
Rotarians played a big part as they rescued us from storms, hosted us when campsites were non-existent, arranged for the Louisiana Harbour Police to collect us at the end in Venice, and performed 101 other small acts of kindness. They even arranged a celebration night in New Orleans when we finished. I think we stayed awake for it.
Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet.
Our website has information about the challenge, the charity, and us. As I tell children we meet along the way: Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something because you are too young, old, fat, thin, or any other reason. If you really want to do it, get on with it!
Rotary is a Can Do organization. We just proved it.
About the Author: Ken Robertshaw is a member of the Rotary Club of Halifax, Yorkshire, and a past governor of District 1040. He served as a police inspector until his retirement in 2001, sustaining a serious injury to his left knee during a burglary arrest which was later compounded when he was run over by a man going the wrong way on a one-way street. He has been involved in a number of charitable events.