Paddling to Persevere

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Four paddlers making their way down the Mississippi River raising money and awareness for the non-profit organization Courage Incorporated, stopped in Guttenberg on July 5. From left are Marcie, Nate and Christina Denofre, and Don and Don Sr. Jokinen. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Paddling to Persevere is a two-fold Mississippi River journey. It is dedicated to raising awareness for Courage Incorporated, a 501c3 non-profit organization focused on helping individuals and veterans with physical disabilities participate in free outdoor wilderness-based adventures. 

Nate Denofre, founding partner of Courage Incorporated, his wife, Christina, and Don Jokinen, a disabled combat war veteran, and his father, Don Jokinen Sr., also a veteran, are paddling their way down river raising funds for the non-profit organization. "Our programs are rooted in rustic camping and include fishing, boating, canoe/kayaking, hiking, ice fishing, and outdoor cooking," said Nate, a bilateral amputee from birth. "We provide people living with physical disabilities the chance to do something that they might have thought wasn't possible for them or that they might never have had the opportunity to do." 

Courage Incorporated, founded in 2015, is on a mission to provide people with physical disabilities the opportunity to reconnect with an activity they may have lost the ability to do. All of the organization's services are free of charge. They are a 100 percent volunteer-based organization and all money raised stays within the organization to further their mission.

"Our Paddling to Persevere campaign is designed as a way to generate awareness and funds for our organization," said Erik Conradson, Courage Incorporated co-founder. "We are also using it as a platform to inspire individuals with physical disabilities to get active and exhibit courage in trying something new or something challenging. We have set a fundraising goal of $25,000 and so far we have raised $9,160."

"The canoeists launched in a snowstorm on May 8 at Lake Itasca, Minn. and will travel over 2500 miles down the Mississippi River. Nate and Don Jokinen Jr. are carrying the American flag on behalf of Courage Incorporated, and will conclude the journey by flying those flags into the Gulf of Mexico," commented Conradson. 

"We have met so many wonderful people along the way and have been assisted by many 'River Angels,'" said Christa, who is also a nurse. "These good samaritans have offered food, shelter, laundry and transportation for restocking our supplies and other resources. They have all been a tremendous help." 

A trip down the Mississippi River would not be complete without a faithful canine companion. "Our family dog Marcie is enjoying the trip. She is a great addition to our group and an excellent traveler on water, although she is always happy to be on dry land when we set up camp for the night," Christina said with a smile. 

At the time of this publication the group submitted this post to the Courage Incorporated Facebook page:  "Good morning all!  We wanted to let everyone know about a change to our Paddling to Persevere campaign.  

Donnie, disabled combat veteran, is separating from the Courage Crew on the river to embark on an epic solo mission of his own.  His goal is to paddle the rest of the river to raise awareness for other combat injured/disabled troops and elevate the issue of health and well being for our service men and women upon their return home.  

"We wish Donnie all of the best in this initiative and we want to thank him for his time spent paddling with us. We're grateful for his efforts to raise awareness for Courage Incorporated and we're excited to see him finish this new journey successfully!" they shared. 

Nate, Christa and Marcie will continue to paddle on as planned. 

Follow Courage Incorporated social media channels to see pictures and videos of the trip at www.facebook.com/paddlingtopersevere or www.facebook.com/courageincorp to make a donation.  A live tracker to see their progress in real time can be viewed at https://share.garmin.com/Paddling2persevere.

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