Hundred? We’re hoping.
I figure now is as good a time as any to write a personal message to anyone and everyone who has been involved with, organized, donated, supported, sponsored and paddled in a Kayak for a Cure™ event over the past *cough* five (5) years.
Thanks to local organizers (I’m looking at you, Don Lowther, Ken Murdock, Virginia Martin, Blaine Brown and crews) Kayak for a Cure™ has grown it’s own legs and launched in cities throughout North America and, while we realize we have 48 more states and 11 more Provinces (and territories!) to go, it’s important to us that we remember where we came from, who inspired us and where we’re going in the future.
I remember well being an over-eager 24-year old calling kayak outfitters with a seemingly (and likely) unrealistic idea for our first annual event. Chris Ladner and Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre believed – and hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity later, they continue to be one of our backbone/presenting sponsors.
Our inspiration really came from an all-too-familiar story – my closest family member battling several types of cancer – Grandma Starkey. Salena Starkey has been the light of my life, my inspiration and my drive to give back a small bit of funds to support an ever-growing need for cancer research and prevention for as long as I can remember. I’m not exactly sure if it was good/bad/indifferent leadership on her part, but anytime I wanted to get my hands dirty and build something – Grandma Starkey encouraged the idea.
We learned very quickly in year #1 that this ‘cute’ little non-profit adventure we were embarking on was far greater than those original 13 kayakers who crossed English Bay here in Vancouver in 2006 – and certainly bigger than even one 25-year-old’s love for his grandmother (although that’s still arguable). Most important of those lessons – which include legal, safety manuals, marketing, social media, creative direction, leadership, story-telling and sponsorship development – was that we honor each and every ‘story’ that gets told via a kayaker’s involvement in our events. Our goal is scale, to grow and to do so organically and properly – having funding, expertise and leadership – in order to set up Kayak for a Cure™ for long-term success. In other words – Kayak for a Cure™ needs to outlive all of us, not live and die like the cancers we all despise.
To that end, we are here to highlight YOUR story, YOUR inspiration and the friends and family that we all are fortunate to have had in our lives – all by way of small boats and single-day adventures with other hardy souls who have raised funds for the cause. We invite you email us your photos, your stories, your inspiration. We want to highlight YOU, and your family members, friends and anyone else who has touched your life by way of a battle with cancer – and we’d love to also hear about the championships that have been won. We’ll tell you about Matt Heemskerk here in a later post – but those title bouts are huge to us, too.
We have a ways to go – we need sponsorship to keep things going as a society, to rent kayaks, to pay for silly things like storage rental and printing posters all over the US – and we’ll get there. We’ll be building out our staff here in Vancouver, British Columbia in order to support our growth – and we’ll be buttoning-up our processes for launching new events so it’s streamlined and smooth for all the new leaders that step up to the plate.
As we grow as a organization, we also get more and more curious about the overall process of cancer research and prevention. This means that we’ll not only be having a blast on the water all over the world at our events, but we plan to become go-to individuals when it comes to learning about cancer prevention and treatment and highlight practical / useful stories around the fight – kayakers or not. We want to get creative with the knowledge we have picked up and stay hungry to learn more about what’s going on (or not going on) in the world to suppress cancer growth and educate consumers on how to decrease their chances of dying early from the many types of cancers.
Looking back at conversations / brainstorms / planning / execution, I can’t help but to think we’re (excuse the verbiage) paddling down the right waterway. We were a small crew of 20-somethings with an eager mission to create something a little different, a little bit special – that we could call our own. We’ve been humbled, inspired and coached by so many of you – and we are so grateful.
I’d be ridiculous not to thank an organization and an individual who, albeit a thorn in his side often times, has supported/sponsored Kayak for a Cure for some time now. John Starkey who is also the CEO of our company, FCV. FCV is a Vancouver-based interactive agency (we ‘do’ websites, iPhone apps, etc) and when Kayak for a Cure didn’t have so much as a domain name and an (almost) secure organization name, FCV stepped up to help us with creative direction, marketing, web design and social media strategy. If there are awards to toss around in addition to our infamous ‘swimmy award’ (for the person who goes overboard – they’re always one!) or ‘highest fundraiser’, FCV would share the ‘believed in us since day 1′ award with Ecomarine and 4imprint. We appreciate it, John – bear with us as we grow!
Thanks also to Kevin Lyons who leads the team at 4imprint – one of our presenting sponsors over the course of the past 5 years. Kevin has believed in the mission and supported our participants diligently and we’re so proud to be able to work with the 4imprint team.
My close buddies, I realize, get tired of hearing me beg them to spend their days trying to ‘DO EPIC SHIT’, and, one of our hopes (in addition to supporting research) is that Kayak for a Cure™ serves as an inspiration to get-up and do something EPIC, every day.
Here’s to another 5 (hundred) years of local events that support local causes and outlive each of us. THANK YOU ALL for participating/building/believing in what has been an enjoyable first 5 years of Kayak for a Cure™.