Erik Elsea, current Club President of the Cape Coral Rotary Club, is reaching the end of his 2552 mile solo canoe trip down the Mississippi River. Elsea has been canoeing from source to sea this summer in order to raise awareness and funds for ShelterBox - a disaster response organization and longtime humanitarian partner of LuminAID. Elsea’s journey began on July 7th, and he has been keeping us updated throughout the harrowing and enlightening trip with frequent blog, Instagram, and Twitter posts. If you take a look through his feed, you’ll see several LuminAID solar lanterns and phone chargers popping up in his canoe, and hanging around his camp. Elsea has used the lanterns to light his way down the river and to demonstrate to those along the way how a solar lantern can change the life of someone who has lost everything to a disaster. ShelterBox includes LuminAID solar lights in the boxes they distribute to those around the world affected by flooding, earthquakes, volcanoes, and other disasters.
Elsea has dreamed of canoeing the entire length of the Mississippi since he was a young boy. However, this trek down the Big Muddy is more than just the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Elsea hopes to raise awareness for ShelterBox’s mission and help allow them to provide emergency shelter and life saving equipment to survivors of natural and human-made disasters.
Elsea has written that one of the most challenging parts of the trip was simply planning it. The journey, by the end, will have taken 90 days. It takes a single drop of rainwater 90 days to travel from the headwaters of the Mississippi in Minnesota, out to the Gulf of Mexico, and Elsea hopes that this parallel will help him convey the necessity of clean drinking water, especially after a disaster. Many natural disasters are exacerbated by enormous amounts of water (think hurricanes, cyclones, and tsunamis), and with that much standing water and poor sanitation after the disaster, diseases and infection run rampant. In addition to the solar lanterns and tents that ShelterBox provides survivors of natural disasters, their teams also distribute water filtration devices and clean drinking water.
Elsea is nearing the end of his months-long journey, which will wrap up in the Gulf of Mexico on October 6th. He’s had innumerable memorable experiences along the way and is certainly not slowing down at the end. We heard from Elsea that this week, when he arrived in Luling, LA, he pulled his canoe out of the river, put it on wheels, wheeled it over the levee and directly down the other side to Alligator Fest. The Sheriff’s Department was holding traffic for him to wheel across the road and right into the festival. It was certainly a sight to be seen!
Elsea has used his LuminAID solar lanterns since his first day up in Minnesota. They are strapped to the top of his canoe all day charging up in the sun and getting splashed by the strokes of his paddle. At night, they’re in the sand and water and thunderstorms. And his LuminAID lights have held up. He’s used them to set up camp when he paddles up to his campsite after sundown and spent many nights passing the time, reading by the comforting light of the LuminAID in his tent. On his less solitary nights, Elsea used the light of the LuminAID to show his canoe to folks he met along the way. One woman was so impressed that she immediately went and ordered LuminAID Christmas presents for her kids. She recognized the value of portable solar light and power and said that everyone in New Orleans should have one of these for hurricane season.
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 shelter aid and other life-saving supplies. Each iconic green ShelterBox contains a disaster relief tent for an extended family, blankets, a water filtration system, emergency lighting, and other tools for survival. ShelterBox USA is based in Sarasota, Florida and Santa Barbara, California.
ShelterBox is an official Project Partner of Rotary International. Tax-deductible donations to Erik Elsea’s trip can be made at ShelterBox USA or by calling (941) 907-6036 attention: Mississippi Expedition.