A former plant superintendent and his wife will paddle the entire Mississippi for Water for People.

Gary DeKock, retired a year ago from his position as plant supervisor at the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Wastewater Treatment Plant, will make an appearance at WEFTEC 2014 in New Orleans. He’ll travel in a less than conventional way – by kayak with his wife Linda, all the way from Minnesota’s Lake Itasca, via the Mississippi River.

The DeKocks, both highly experienced paddlers, will make their 2,291-mile voyage from the river’s source in a tandem kayak, departing on July 19. It’s an awareness-builder and fundraiser for Water for People, a non-profit organization that helps provide safe water to communities in developing countries. They hope to earn $5 for every mile paddled – that’s $11,455 – by soliciting funds on the Crowdwise website, according to a report in the Grand Rapids Press newspaper.

“The cool thing about Water for People is they work on sustainable solutions,” Linda DeKock told the newspaper. “First-world people usually go and put in a well, then stand back and say: ‘There! Everyone is happy.’ And five years later the well doesn’t work, and the women are still walking five miles to get water. Water for People tries to go beyond that and have local communities invested in the outcome.”

Related: Blog: The Fire Chief Project: Treatment Tour By Trolley

Gary DeKock, still a member of the Michigan Water Environment Association, chairs its Water for People Committee. He sees the kayak trip and its mission as an extension of a 30-year career.
“This trip fit with my profession and interests,” he told the paper. “I’ve worked in wastewater treatment and have been involved with providing that service to our communities. But there are a lot of other communities around the world that don’t have that, and with a little effort we can make a big change.”

You can read more about the DeKocks’ trip in an article from The Grand Rapids Press and
follow their progress or donate at: mi-waterforpeople.com.

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