A group of five Traverse City friends share a passion for the Great Lakes. They are so passionate about it, so they all jumped on board at the idea to paddleboard across Lake Michigan to raise money for the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
"We just had this idea that wouldn't it be awesome to cross Lake Michigan," Kwin Morris, one of the five taking on this endeavor, said. "So we started talking about let's do it for a sweet cause and see if we can raise some money for things that we love so much."
This organization focuses on preserving and protecting the Great Lakes. According to the Alliance for the Great Lakes website, their mission is: "To conserve and restore the world's largest freshwater resource using policy, education and local efforts, ensuring a healthy Great Lakes and clean water for generations of people and wildlife."
"When you live on Lake Michigan you always start looking across it and think wouldn't it be cool to head over," Andrew Pritchard, another one of the five friends, said. "It just seems like such a great challenge. So once we had that idea, the fundraiser idea came pretty quickly as well."
They plan to leave on Monday.
"We're thinking it's going to take us 24 hours," Morris said. "So we're going to shoot for leaving the shores of Wisconsin around 2 p.m. and that will give us a window."
"Not many people have tried to go the entire way themselves," Pritchard said. "The 60 to 80 miles, depending on where you make the crossing, is pretty challenging on a paddleboat. We are hoping we're up for it."
That hope is soon becoming a reality. They will be carrying food on their boards and also hired a charter fisherman to make the trip with them. He will be there as an added security blanket and to keep an eye out for shipping lanes and strong currents along the way.
"He's going to be there just watching us, supporting us," Morris said. "We're not going to know he's there but he'll be watching out for our backs."
There has been mixed reactions so far for this trip, both encouragement and concerns for safety. But the guys, who named their endeavor 'Stand up for Great Lakes', are confident with the training they've been doing since December 2013 and have been preparing for the worst.
Stand up paddleboarding, otherwise known as SUP, comes naturally to them. They think they are ready to embark on this journey.
"I think that's kind of what brought us together, is that passion," Morris said. "The lakes and streams and being in them and the greatness of them. The Great Lakes."
Stand up for Great Lakes hope to double their funding by Labor Day.
"We raised a little over $5,000," Pritchard said. "We're hoping to raise $10,000. So if people feel like donating, we'd love the support. You can go onto our website and donate directly there. Donations are 100% tax-deductible because it's all going to Alliance of the Great Lakes."
You can follow their journey and contribute to their cause here.