River expedition to raise funds for ShelterBox disaster relief

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Erikk Elsea is paddling the length of the Mississippi River to raise funds for ShelterBox, a program that aids in domestic and international disaster relief. (Photo submitted)

By Shelia Tomkins

A Florida man stopped in Guttenberg last week during a trip down the Mississippi River on a personal journey to raise funds and awareness for disaster relief.

Erik Elsea is solo-paddling the entire length of the river to raise money for ShelterBox USA. Elsea, former president of the Cape Coral Rotary Club, arrived in time to speak with Guttenberg Rotary members at their weekly Thursday meeting on Aug. 9.

The local Rotary Club is familiar with the program, having contributed to the purchase of a ShelterBox in 2015 as a joint project with other local donors.

The money that Elsea raises from his Mississippi River expedition will provide emergency shelter and supplies for families who have lost their homes in natural disaster or crisis. His goal is to raise $100 per mile of the Mississippi, for a total of $255,200. 

Dr. Janette Simon introduced the adventurer to local Rotarians and noted Rotary's connection to the ShelterBoxes. "They are filled with goods and are intended for domestic and international use in times of manmade and natural disasters," she said.  

Elsea calls himself a "ShelterBox ambassador." He began his journey in Minnesota on July 7 at Lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi River. "This has been a childhood dream of mine to do the trip," he said.

ShelterBox provides humanitarian aid in the form of family-sized tents and essential tools to start repairing and rebuilding homes. Additionally, the organization’s kits and boxes contain items that help transform the shelter into a home, such as cooking sets, solar lights, blankets, water filtration, and activity sets for children.

Elsea plans to complete the distance in 90 days, with a goal to average 25 miles a day. "I'm not in a hurry," he said. "I could do it in two months, but I'm taking three months — stopping to do some fun things along the way. 

He said the most challenging part of his trip so far was not issues with water levels, weather or river current, but "logistics." He doesn't make a stop in every river town, but is trying to make connections with numerous Rotary Clubs along the way. Follow his adventure by visiting www.mississippiexpedition.com.

About ShelterBox

Since 2000, ShelterBox has provided shelter, warmth, and dignity following more than 300 disasters in over 100 countries. ShelterBox responds urgently to earthquake, volcano, flood, hurricane, cyclone, tsunami, or conflict by delivering boxes of essential aid and other life-saving supplies.  

ShelterBox is an official Project Partner of Rotary International. Tax-deductible donations to the organization can be made at www.ShelterBoxUSA.org or by calling (941) 907-6036.

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