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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 413
Passion, Dedication, Vision
Friday, July 7, 2017
Clarksdale, Miss ~ Helena, Ark

Note: all photos come from last week’s Junior Spring Initiative Overnight on the Mississippi River... keep scrolling below for photos from the adventure... including mayflies, frogs, toads, turtles, muddy water swims, nature walks, more swims, intermittent rain, more swims, devotions, more swims, hot dogs and marshmallow roast, more swimming, and the Mighty Quapaw 3 Rs of the River: 1) Respect of the Self, 2) Respect of Others, 3) Respect of the River.

We Met our Goal!
Special thanks to everyone who made donations in support of 2017 Camp ROCK. As result of your generosity we have met our $2,000 goal to help 125 kids ages 6-11 get in canoes on the Sunflower River for a fun, educational, and adventuresome time! Y’all ROCK the river! This is an example of how our LiNKS program works: working with local partners to create channels for Mississippi Valley youth (who probably would not have the opportunity for meaningful and fun experiences on the Big River). Diversify. Democratize. Deep Stewardship. LiNKS = Leave No Kid on Shore.

Keep reading below for another LiNKS success story: with Jr. Spring Initiative! This week's photos all come from last week's overnight with Junior Spring!

Tomorrow (Sat, July 8th): Last of the Independence Day Week Summer Beach Specials:
Helena, AR, 9am-4pm. Meet 9am at Quapaw Canoe Company Helena (107 Perry Street). Features the beautiful 9-mile stretch of river from the mouth of the St. Francis River to the Helena Harbor. Reservations required. Canoe to the St. Francis Bar, the Helena Islands, and Buck Island for swimming, sunbathing and beach-combing! No experience necessary. Everyone paddles together in our giant hand-crafted cypress strip canoes. $75 each for the half day adventure. We provide big canoe, paddles, life jackets and all safety equipment. You bring food, drink and whatever personals you need for the beach! The weather looks good for tomorrow: Partly sunny, with a high near 89. West wind 5 to 10 mph becoming north in the afternoon. A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Other activities include sand castles, burying your friends in the sand, beach frisbee, beach volleyball, birding, animal tracking, geology, photography, and taking a siesta. For more information contact John Ruskey,, Lena Von Machui,, or Mark River Minimum to make trip: 6 people. No maximum. First come, first served.
Saturday July 8th
Beach Special: 9am-4pm
Meet: 107 Perry Street, Helena, AR
Reservations Required

Helena’s Cherry Street Festival:
5-8pm Saturday, July 8th
Downtown Helena --
Featuring the Ben Miller Band
Ben Miller Band: Their music has been described as combining the urgency of rock and roll, the frenetic energy of bluegrass, the soul of the delta blues and the haunted spirit of Appalachian mountain music into a unique musical stew they dub “Ozark Stomp”. Rolling Stone Magazine named them "Best Instrumental" at the 2014 Americana Music Festival. See them LIVE at the Cherry Street Fair, Saturday, July 8th, in Historic Downtown Helena!

Passion, Dedication, Vision:
Junior Spring Initiative Overnight
On the Mississippi River
Sharing pictures from last week’s Junior Spring Initiative Overnight on the Mississippi River!
Jr. Spring has been carving the Catfish Dugout Canoe and paddling on the Sunflower River for the past 3 years. Finally everything coelesced for a Mississippi River overnight adventure: The dream came to life! This kind of experience was made possible through the passion, dedication and vision of the SPRING leadership:
SPRING INITIATIVE is the innovative and successful after-school program conceived by Anja Thiessen and Bianca Zaharescu, and now joined by Matt Sutton, Veronica Kahaleua, Rachel Bouer, and Joe Easley -- and many other dedicated and passionate and visionary individuals. Matt, for example, grew up travelling to Mississippi (since age 7) with his parents to volunteer his talents in Coahoma County. Matt is one of the most deeply dedicated teachers I have ever met. Along with all of the other Spring Initiative leaders, we are so lucky to have Matt in Coahoma County for the benefit of Mississippi Delta youth.

About Spring:
Spring is a comprehensive youth & family programs organization. We build on the transformative power of relationships and education because we believe that everyone needs to feel both loved and capable in order to thrive. We are excited that you are taking the time to learn about Spring Initiative. Please don't hesitate to reach out! We would love to hear from you!

Success Story: Six Students Get Accepted Into Piney Woods School

After 4 years at Spring, 6 of our Big Spring students got accepted into Piney Woods School, a historically black, Christian, college prep boarding school by Jackson, MS, three hours south of Clarksdale. Piney Woods is a high quality private high school and sends 99-100% of its students to college. Our students have made amazing strides as it comes to taking their education seriously and setting goals for themselves. All of our kids have enormous potential and we want them to get maximally prepared for the world that awaits after graduation – and we know that Piney Woods is going to open many doors for them. We are so proud of the kids’ efforts and courage!

Spring's Mission:
Spring Initiative empowers children, youth, and families in the North Mississippi Delta to overcome adverse academic, social, emotional, and economic circumstances and systemic inequality through educational interventions; personalized, holistic support; and long-term relationships.

Youth Programs' Vision:
Spring Initiative is a youth development nonprofit that offers comprehensive, long-term programs for youth and families facing adverse academic, social, or economic circumstances. Our after-school cohorts provide academic, relational, and social service support to address each student’s needs in a community that fosters belonging, achievement, healing, and health. Spring creates opportunities for its students to identify positive, possible, future selves by building academic and personal skills, confidence, and excitement. Spring encourages students to engage with others and themselves in a kind and proactive way. Spring believes that by exposing students to new places, individuals, and ideas, as well as inspiring them to invest in their own community, Spring kids feel empowered to dream big. Spring students overcome obstacles in a supportive cohort environment as they develop goals and a vision for their lives.

Get Involved:
Spring is about relationships. We are building a community of kids and adults who all care about one another and want to see each other succeed at becoming who they are meant to be. Please join us! We would love to welcome you in person.
You can read more about Spring on their super-cool website:

Solar Eclipse of the Century — 3 earth-shaking days on the Mississippi River!
Solar Eclipse on the Big River Sunday Aug 20th - Tuesday Aug 22nd. View the Total Solar Eclipse August 21st from the middle of the mighty Mississippi River! We will paddle to remote Mississippi River island and set up an eclipse-viewing camp to observe this incredible phenomena from the perspective of the biggest river in North America. 3 days/2 nights. Rain or Shine. (Note: the effects of the eclipse will be seen and felt regardless of sky cover. In cloudy weather it will become even darker.) Contact John Ruskey,, to reserve your seat in the big canoe, or for more information.
Other Upcoming Events:
Aug 18: Rivergator Celebration (ON LAND): On Friday, August 18th we will be celebrating the Rivergator with paintings, photos, writing, film, music, food and drinks! Starts 6pm at Catalpa House in Clarksdale, Miss. 6-9pm. Featuring paintings by John Ruskey, writing by Boyce Upholt, photos & film by Chris Battaglia, and adventure stories from John and LaNae Abnet. Music TBA. Catalpa House is located at the corner of Riverside & Catalpa (110 Catalpa Street — across the Sunflower River from downtown Clarksdale). For more information contact John Ruskey,, Lena Von Machui,, or Mark River
Aug 19th: Quapaw Canoe Company's annual Canoe, Kayak & SUP Safety Workshop -- in the Helena Harbor 12noon to 5pm. Meet 11am at Quapaw Helena headquarters 107 Perry St in downtown Helena, last building on levee headed to river. Open to public, $50/person for one-on-one instruction in what to do when your vessel flips over in the big river. Other topics covered include navigation, big river protocol, and emergency medical considerations.

Meet Timothy Winter-Nelson, our summer intern from Carleton College:
If you do anything with us this summer you will meet Timothy Winter-Nelson. Tim is undergoing rigorous hands-on training with Quapaw Canoe Company as part of his higher education. Tim is sharing the experience via an online blog, which you can see at:
Rivergator Update: Once again, sorry for the delay in sending out any more news of the Rivergator Celebratory Expedition. We had to jump back into a very-busy Spring Summer season of guiding & outfitting on the Lower Mississippi River, and leave the story behind for a minute. At Quapaw Canoe Company guiding & outfitting is our bread and butter — the activity that keeps us alive and enables us to engage in community-based projects like the Rivergator and our all of our youth training and outdoor education. When you go on a trip with Quapaw you help us out with our strong ethic of community service. This year has been especially tough for us. We have dedicated all of our resources and energies to completing the Rivergator and are returning to find our business suffering from neglect and inattention. In addition, several major European expeditions have cancelled on us — due to what they described as the “unfriendly political climate in America” — partly due to travel restrictions, and partly due to our pullout from the Paris Climate Accord. This is alarming for us. A significant portion of our clientele comes from oversees.
You can however, read Boyce Upholt’s description in Canoe & Kayak Magazine, beautifully illustrated with Magique's (Chris Battaglia’s) photos.
Beyond the Levees: the Crew reaches the end of their journey down the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
May 30, 2017 by Boyce Upholt, photos by Chris Battaglia
Nov 1-Nov 10: Continuation of the Rivergator Expedition: We will return to Bonne Carre Spillway in early November and resume the expedition to the Gulf of Mexico. More details forthcoming, but dates are approx Wed, Nov 1 to Fri Nov 10th, weather dependent of course.
New England Rivergator Events: Maine!
July 20th - Inaugural Talk & Adventure Presentation Series
Portland Gear Hub
85 Anderson St, Portland, ME 04101
What: Presentation and story-sharing from the Rivergator Celebratory Expedition. Focus on gearing up for the expedition, lessons learned about the basics of Shelter, Clothing, Food, and Fuel, and “where do we go from here?”
Where: Portland Gear Hub’s new Bike School location, 85 Anderson St, Portland, ME. Portland Gear hub is a non-profit bike and outdoor gear shop powered by Camp Ketcha. The Bike School is a dedicated program and class space.
For more info please go to
July 24th - A Mississippi River Pop-Up Dinner
FORK Food Lab
72 Parris St, Portland, ME 04101
What: Pop-up dinner celebrating the stories and flavors of the 2017 Rivergator Celebratory Expedition. Images, video, and words to bring to life the Lower Mississippi River, as seen from a 30’ voyageur canoe between St. Louis and New Orleans. Three course meal - details coming soon.
Where: FORK Food Lab, 72 Parris St, Portland, ME. FORK is a community shared kitchen and tasting room, located in Portland’s West Bayside neighborhood.
When: Monday, July 17th, 2017. 7pm
More: Ticketed event, with tickets being released soon.
For more info please go to
Quapaw Canoe Company - Carpenter Art Garden took 1st and 2nd place at the
Outdoors Inc Canoe & Kayak Race
Photos and Story in Commercial Appeal:
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