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Eighth graders attempt to cross Mackinac Straits by stand up paddleboard

The boys heading to shore while training.

ANTRIM COUNTY (WPBN/WGTU) --While most 14-year-olds spend their Saturdays playing video games or watching T.V., two eighth graders in Elk Rapids are doing something a little different.

Saturday, they’ll be attempting to complete a difficult journey, all while raising awareness for a cause close to their hearts, and their home.

“Best friends since first grade for sure,” exclaimed Kadin Patterson, standing next to fellow 8th grader Gordie Lafontaine with a smile across his face.

The boys are both eighth graders at Cherryland Middle School in Elk Rapids, and when tasked with their eighth grade community project they knew they’d be partners. However, they didn’t know what their project was going to be.

“So first of all, we wanted to protect the environment," explained Patterson. "And we know Mr. Morris had been doing that so we talked to him."

“They came up to me," said the boys science teacher Kwin Morris. "And (they) were like, ‘hey can we team up with stand up for great lakes, can we do a beach cleanup or something' and I said 'think bigger.'”

Not only is Morris the boys science teacher, but he's also their football coach and one of the founders of the organization Stand Up for Great Lakes, which has a pretty lofty goal.

“Two summers ago we crossed Lake Michigan on paddle boards," said Morris speaking about his organization. "We realized that we still had a ton of work to do, and we made it a non profit charity. Were gonna cross all of the great lakes”

So… what did the boys decide to do for their project?

"Well, then it came up 'well, what if we paddle board across the Mackinac Straits,'" said Patterson.

The five mile trek over icy cold water will raise money and awareness for the Great Lakes. and Mr. Morris will be right there doing it with them.

It’s a five mile crossing, which doesn’t seem like a lot on paper," Morris explained. "But when you talk about the straits currents and the waves that can get up there, you have to be a skilled paddler.”

The boys have been training all winter long, preparing for what they say will be a daring yet rewarding experience.

“It’s awesome," Lafontaine said. "Paddle boarding is a great thing and protecting the great lakes is even better.”

So far, the boys have raised close to $3,000. Along with the two students and Mr. Morris, three others from Stand Up for Great Lakes will be joining them on their journey.

They’ll also be equipped with dry suits, and a follow boat will be trailing behind them at all times.

You can see a live stream of the crossing Saturday by logging onto the Stand Up for Great Lakes Facebook page.


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