Teen finishes Mississippi kayaking mission for Hodgkin’s
By Pippi Mayfield
Minnesota teen Brock Wood had talked about doing some major kayaking in the future, but after surviving Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, he decided it was time. Wood, 19, of Alexandria, is nearing the end of a month-and-a-half long mission, kayaking the mighty Mississippi River.
He left Itasca State Park on June 17, and his sister, Kendra Hartfell, said he was on schedule to hit New Orleans on Friday, July 26.
“He crossed into Louisiana on Sunday night. He’s going really hard this week,” she said.
Hartfell has been in contact via phone with her brother throughout his journey and updates his blog on his website (www.paddle4kins.org) on a regular basis.
“He calls as much as possible, but there are some days that we can’t because he doesn’t have service, but we try to keep in contact every day, or at least every other day, and we do texting, too,” she said.
During his adventure, Wood also is raising awareness and money toward finding a cure for the cancer he beat. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in November of 2012, and rang the bell as a survivor March 29 when he left the hospital cancer-free.
“This kind of kept him going through all of his treatments because it was a really rough few months this winter. This trip kept him going,” Hartfell said of her brother looking forward to the kayaking quest.
His trip down the Mississippi started with a friend, Jesse Hacker, who lasted about a week and a half and had to end his part of the voyage.
“It was disappointing, but it was also kind of a blessing in disguise because it allowed for a lot of other people to go with Brock,” Hartfell said.
After Hacker, Wood got to spend time on the river with his brother, his brother-in-law and a couple of other friends.
“And I think his dad is going to go with him one day this week,” she added.
When Wood and his friend pushed off at Itasca, their kayaks were filled with a tent, Mountain House food, where you just add water for a meal, and granola bars. They also brought lots of water.
“Especially down south right now, it’s really hot and they have to stay hydrated,” she said.
Wood is nearing the goal he set forth on over a month ago. But it likely hasn’t sunk in yet either.
“I don’t know if he realizes that his dream is about to come true, actually,” Hartfell said with a laugh. “It’s been at least 35-40 days on this river. He stops for the night but then gets back on in the morning. I don’t know that he realizes it, but we are so excited.”
Wood’s parents will be meeting him in New Orleans when he is finished with the 2,320-mile journey. They have met Wood along the way a couple times, whether they were planned visits or not. For example, within the first few days, they brought new paddles after the first ones got wrecked.
“I think they wanted to be there for him as much as they could,” Hartfell said.
After Wood returns from New Orleans, Hartfell said her brother plans to attend the University of Minnesota, Crookston.
She said he wants to be an aerial sprayer and has gone through training to become a pilot already.
So after he has taken the world by water, he’ll head for the skies.
Along the way, Wood has met many people who have helped him with lodging, food and simply became friends with him.
“I know he is very thankful for all of the support he’s been given throughout his whole trip,” Hartfell said.