Three eighth-grade students from Cherryland Middle School in Elk Rapids raised more than $20,000 for Great Lakes preservation on the 46.2-mile stand-up paddleboard journey from Sault Ste. Marie to Drummond Island.

The official press release from Stand Up for Great Lakes.

Three 8th grade students from Cherryland Middle School in Elk Rapids completed a 46.24 mile stand-up-paddleboard trip from just below the Soo Locks to Drummond Island on the St. Mary’s River. Besides battling 15 mph headwinds, 2-3 foot chop, rain, sleet and hail not to mention the wake from 1000’ freighters, the group was successful in raising $21,000 for Stand Up for Great Lakes.

Owen Werner, Max Ward and Jamie Peters were greeted along the way by well-wishers, cheerleaders and residents who encouraged the young men on their journey.

The trio paddled with Kwin Morris, their science teacher and Joe Lorenz who are co-founders of Stand Up for Great Lakes an organization dedicated to preserving all lakes. Morris and Lorenz have paddled 4 of the 5 Great Lakes with fellow co-founder Jeff Guy.

To help with the send-off, 5 paddlers from Bird’s Eye Outfitters of Sault Ste. Marie accompanied the group for a few miles as a show of support.

The group was escorted by a safety boat with an EMT on board along with a parent. Each paddler was outfitted in dry suits and PFDs (personal flotation devices).

The safety boat provided a safe haven during their trip when the paddlers were forced to take shelter when hit with heavy rain which turned to sleet and finally hailstones. “It’s the first time in all of our paddles where we had to shelter in the safety boat,” said Morris. “Getting hit by hail was no fun.”

The young men set a goal to raise $5,000 and that was accomplished before they placed their frost-laden paddleboards in the river at 7 a.m. on May 1. Then at launch, they surpassed $10,000 and by the time they finished on Drummond Island, they hit $16,000. “One of the coolest things was that the Drummond Island Elementary School had a penny drive and raised $1,260,” said Morris. “That really kept us motivated through the entire journey.”

All funds will be donated to Stand Up For Great Lakes, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the Great Lakes Basin.

What was their motivation for the trip?  “The lakes represent 84% of North America’s freshwater supply,” says Owen Werner. “My concern is plastic particles as small as a pinhead are getting into fish and damaging the habitat as well. Over 20 million pounds of plastic ends up in the lakes each year, and those numbers will only continue to grow.”

“I fish these waters with my buddies, swim, boat, ski in them and much more,” said Jamie Peters. “They are a big part of my life and the lives of thousands and thousands more.”

“My goal is to inspire people around the Great Lakes to stand up for them,” added Max Ward. “The Great Lakes are crucial to the lives of every living thing in and around the lakes.”

About Stand Up for Great Lakes                              

It began with a love of water. The group has crossed four of the five great lakes by stand-up paddleboard and has raised more than $80,000 to help raise awareness of the issues facing the Great Lakes. The lakes are under threat. Oil pipelines of questionable integrity, invasive species, sewage leakage, pharmaceutical pollution, agricultural runoff, and those who choose to throw beer cans and cigarette butts wherever they please, the list of threats to these majestic and vital bodies of water is endless. We’re asking others to Stand Up for Great Lakes and provide support and encourage us on this important mission.