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Paddle with Purpose

Today is the last day to vote!

The Mighty Quapaws have been working hard taking care of the river for almost fifteen years (since 1998). We’re excited about this recognition -- mainly because it's inspired by a group of our peers from the seminal Canoe & Kayak Magazine, which represents over 300,000 down-home paddlers like us. We probably wouldn't really care otherwise. Will you help us out with this simple vote that will only take a few seconds out of your day?

PS: If not us, go and vote for some other worthy individual or organization!

Canoe & Kayak Magazine 2012 Paddle with Purpose award goes to “the most-inspiring paddling effort, organization or expedition devoted to a philanthropic cause…”

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From Canoe & Kayak Magazine:


THE CAUSE Mentoring at-risk youth on the Big Muddy


THE METHOD Canoe-building, river-tripping, art and music

John Ruskey, noted local bluesman, canoe guide and owner of Quapaw Canoe Company (QCC), has been sharing his love of America’s greatest river with at-risk youth since 1998. Ruskey’s Mighty Quapaw Apprenticeship Program introduces children from some of the nation’s most impoverished communities to the Mississippi River and the possibilities manifested in its rolling waters. Students in the program learn canoe and paddle making, river guiding, camping and survival skills. Ruskey’s aim is to teach the Mighty Quapaws self-reliance, teamwork, leadership, environmental stewardship and ethics.

From a story on big canoes in the July 2012 Canoe & Kayak Magazine:

“Mississippi River Outfitter John Ruskey has been battling nature-deficit disorder with trips in six- to fourteen-person hand crafted wood-strip and dugout canoes for impoverished Deep South kids since 1998. Ruskey’s Mighty Quapaws after-school apprenticeship program gets youngsters “away from the crowded house and helps break the never-ending cycle of poverty,” says Ruskey. the owner of Clarksdale, Mississippi’s Quapaw Canoe Company.

For Ruskey, paddling a big canoe is a “true democratic experience.” It enforces the need for consensus, compromise, self- and group awareness, and sets the stage for what he calls “spiritual experiences with mother nature.” Ruskey remembers one apprentice laying down on a sandbar and marveling at the size of the sky. Regardless of demographics he insists that there is a “connection that every paddler makes when they step into the canoe and enter that special place that exists on the water…”

MORE INFO C&K On Assignment: Mississippi Wandering

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Other Nominees for C&K Paddle with Purpose:


THE PROGRAM Whitewater paddling and other outdoor sports for young adults with cancer


THE METHOD Empowering young people to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same.

First Descents introduces young adults with cancer to outdoor challenges, allowing them to push their limits and face their fears. The experience allows them to regain the confidence and self-reliance often lost to cancer. The experience is designed to allow healing to happen naturally and organically—without forced conversations, structured group sessions or therapy. The program has grown to include a variety of outdoor sports, with whitewater kayaking being the original and still most common setting. Programs are limited to 15 participants, with professional staff and volunteers from the outdoor sports community. The program is free, including travel scholarships when needed.


THE CAUSE Healing wounded spirits through kayak fishing
THE METHOD Bring wounded veterans together with experienced kayak anglers, and go fishing
Heroes on the Water serves all military personnel who have been wounded, injured or disabled. What looks like a day trip of paddling and fishing for wounded vets is in fact something much deeper and long-lasting. As all paddlers know, time on the water is therapeutic. HOW facilitates that healing by bringing wounded veterans together with experienced kayak anglers in 35 chapters around the country. Founder Jim Dolan estimates HOW has introduced 4,800 wounded veterans to kayak fishing, and his goal is to have 100 chapters nationwide serving 10,000 veterans. Being on the water gives soldiers a feeling of peace and freedom from their wounds—an experience that “coalesces into personal revelations that while the wounds may have closed one door, there are other doors to explore. Life is still good.”



THE CAUSE Teaching children about the outdoors

THE INSTIGATOR Dave and Amy Freeman

THE METHOD An online curriculum based on the couple’s nearly 12,000-mile wilderness odyssey

The Wilderness Classroom is almost as simple as it sounds. As expedition members-such as founders Dave and Amy Freeman-travel remote pieces of the globe, they interact with classrooms via the Internet. The Freemans are currently on their “North American Odyssey,” a three-year, 11,700-mile trip by kayak, canoe and dogsled across North America. As they travel, they post photos, journal entries, dilemmas, podcasts, videos, and maps for students to follow and learn from. The Freemans currently have 2,100 teachers and 70,000 students participating online, and they hope to push the student number to 100,000 by the journey’s end. They’ll also visit 50 schools and share their experiences with over 12,000 school kids, in person.


THE CAUSE Building trust between police and native youth


THE METHOD Long journeys in voyageur canoes

Relations between First Nation communities and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are complicated by a long, bitter history of institutional discrimination. RCMP staff sergeant Ed Hill works to heal these old wounds using traditional Pacific Northwest-style war canoes. In 1997, he and native artist Roy Henry Vickers organized a 31-day flotilla in which lawmen and native youth canoed more than 700 miles from the village of Hazelton in Central B.C. to Victoria. That journey inspired the annual Pulling Together events, in which law enforcement officers—once charged with enforcing discriminatory laws—and First Nations people get together to renew trust and bridge cultural gaps through the common cause of paddling canoes. Nearly 300 people participated in the eight-day journey last year.

For Immediate Release:



Canoe & Kayak magazine is pleased to announce that voting for the first annual Canoe & Kayak Awards presented by Zeal Optics is now open in all categories. The awards honor paddling’s most inspiring people, expeditions and films, chosen by paddlers. Vote online at The awards presentation and celebration will take place Aug. 2 at Pierpont Place in downtown Salt Lake City, coinciding with the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show.

Voting opens today for Movie of the Year and Reel of the Year. Polls opened last week for Male and Female Paddler of the Year, Expedition of the Year and the Paddle with Purpose Award, which honors philanthropic efforts by and for paddlers. The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award will also be announced at the Aug. 2 Canoe & Kayak Awards celebration.

The nominees represent the remarkable diversity and talent found in modern paddling, but leave us with some tough decisions: How do we choose between short films like NRS and Forge Motion Pictures Of Souls + Water: The Nomad, which features Erik Boomer dropping 73-foot Sahalie Falls, and Andy Maser’s The Craziest Idea, which documents the two largest dam removal projects in history? How do you compare Pete McBride’s film about paddling the length of the Colorado River with Amongst It’s Canoe Movie II, which follows the first OC-1 descents of North Carolina’s Toxaway River and numerous Colorado steep creeks? Can you really compare groundbreaking expeditions like the Ellesmere Circumnavigation (1,500 miles over ice and Arctic waters) and the Grand Inga Project (the first descent of the world’s biggest rapids)?

How do we choose? The answer is, we don’t. You do.

Go to to meet the nominees, see their stories in words, photographs and videos, and cast your vote.

Special thanks to our partners for their support of the first-ever Canoe & Kayak Awards: Zeal Optics, Kru Vodka, Shred Ready, Necky Kayaks, Body Glove and NRS.

Be sure to follow Canoe & Kayak magazine on and on Twitter @CanoeKayakMag (#CKAwards) for updates on the Awards and voting.


Zeal Optics is based in Boulder, Colorado and known for revolutionary advances in performance eyewear. ZEAL’s passion is creating some of the world’s best performing sunglasses and goggles for those that enjoy an active lifestyle. Located in the mountains, ZEAL is built forlake living, mountain fun and every kind of active adventure in between. Every ZEAL sunglass frame is made from Z-Resin, a plant-based resin made from castor bean oil instead of crude oil, creating not just a “green line” but making the entire full line of eyewear eco-friendly. Stay tuned to ZEAL Optic’s Facebook page at for more updates.


Since 1973, Canoe & Kayak magazine has been the world’s leader in paddlesports media. C&K reaches over 300,000 enthusiastic paddlers every month through print, digital mobile devices and tablets, events, and online at The award winning publication is part of GrindMedia, a Source Interlink Media company.