04/10/12 — Kayaking for Relay for Life

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Kayaking for Relay for Life

By Gary Popp
Published in News on April 10, 2012 1:46 PM

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Richard Folsom smiles as he sets off this morning down the Neuse River along with a dozen other kayakers who are paddling to raise awareness of the fight against cancer. Folsom is kayaking in memory of his brother, Walter Levon, who died in 2009 of pancreatic cancer.

A group of kayaking enthusiasts, paddling 225 miles in nine days on the Neuse River and other waterways to raise money for the fight against cancer, made a stop in Goldsboro on Tuesday.

Led by cancer survivor Kim Tart and her husband, Chris, the group of 13 is navigating through six counties and sharing fellowship with Relay for Life teams along the way.

The kayakers left Raleigh on Saturday and are scheduled to end their journey, which they are calling "Hope Floats NC," in Beaufort on April 16.

Mrs. Tart started paddling with her husband, an avid kayaker, after her diagnosis as a way to relieve stress.

She is now paddling to help others.

She said the most difficult part of the long trip has not been exposure to the elements or sore muscles, but the emotional impact.

"It is emotional. It is a very emotional trip," Mrs. Tart said. "Yesterday was my hardest day because it was my three-year survivorship, and we have two other survivors paddling with us. It just all came to reality that this is what we were doing."

Mrs. Tart said each of the paddlers has lost a family member or friend to cancer.

"Everybody is affected by cancer in one way or another," Mrs. Tart said.

She said each night during their journey the group takes time to light candles in honor of those who have battled cancer.

Many of those the group recognizes are names that have been listed on the group's website, HopeFloatsNC.com.

"We have over 80 people on the website that we are paddling for," she said. "(The list) keeps growing each day."

The entire group of paddlers was especially impacted when a five-year-old child from Siler City was recently added to the website's list, Mrs. Tart said.

Mrs. Tart said she is amazed at all the positive feedback she and the others have received in organizing the kayaking trip.

"It has come together way more than I ever thought it would," she said.

Many of the members of other relay teams have said they want to participate in next year's trip, Mrs. Tart said. "We are already in the planning period for next year," she said.

Chris Tart said after the first day of the trip, when the group covered 30 miles on the water in under nine hours, things have become easier.

"It has not been as challenging the first three days as we thought it would be. The weather has been beautiful and that has really helped us. The spirits are high. Everybody is excited. Everybody is doing great."

Tart said he is pleased to bring together about seven Relay for Life teams, including Wayne County, to focus on a single effort.

"Relay has always been a team against team kind of thing, but I feel like it is just as important to bring everybody together because it is for the same cause. Even though our team is set up in Harnett County, the money is going to the same place. As we go down the river we are trying to connect all the relays together."

Tart reached out to the Wayne County Relay for Life representatives earlier in the year, spoke at one of their events.

Wayne County Relay For Life activities chairman Stephanie McCloud said she was immediately ready to help the Tarts and the Hope Floats effort when she heard what they were planning.

"He came and told us all about his group and we offered anything we could to help him," Mrs. McCloud said.

She said Chris requested Wayne County officials prepare dinner for the kayakers, so she organized a spaghetti dinner that was also open to the public.

Pizza Inn provided food that was served by Wayne County volunteers under a tent in the same area where the kayakers would sleep under their own tents near the wildlife boating access at U.S. 117 in Mar Mac.

"This is all for them," Mrs. McCloud said. "What we are doing is feeding all them for free and any extra (money raised) will go to the Wayne County Relay For Life. It is sort of a fundraiser for us and them at the same time."

Mrs. McCloud said it was exciting to team up with another Relay for Life group involved in such a unique venture.

"It's great. It's something we never done before, but I am sure we will do it each year if they continue to do. It looks like it is going to be a lot of fun."