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Canoe trip to benefit cancer stops in Natchez

NATCHEZ — Natchez Under-the-Hill Saloon is a long way for a South Dakota State University frat boy to travel for a beer.

But three Delta Chi men landed in Natchez Sunday afternoon for just that. The stop was a break from their Canoeing for the Cure trip down the mighty Mississippi River.

“Delta Chi is trying to raise money for the V Foundation this year, and every chapter is doing its own fundraiser,” said Ben Wise, one of the canoers. “Last year, we biked to Las Vegas.

“This year, our convention is in New Orleans, so we thought going down the river would connect everything nicely.”

Wise, Mark York, Brett Monson and Tony Temple set out on a 2,300-mile river trip from Brookings, S.D., to New Orleans on June 21 in a canoe and a kayak.

“Cancer has affected all of our families,” Wise said.

“We like the V Foundation because all of the administrative costs are paid for by ESPN, so all of the donations go to research,” York said.

Wise said Temple had to leave at Vicksburg because he is going to medical school.

“He is contributing to the cause hands-on,” Wise said.

York said they started out in a creek that was barely bigger than the canoe.

“To do something fun, during the first few days, we played a game called deer vs. people,” York said. “And deer won. We saw way more deer than we did people.”

Now that they are further south, and the river is almost a mile wide, they don’t see as much wildlife, but they still have to find ways to pass the time.

“If we get some great songs to sing or a good topic to talk about the ride is good,” Wise said. “Otherwise, it is monotonous eight hours with the wind and sun beating down on your face.”

York said mornings and evenings are the best time to paddle.

“The mornings are nice. The water is calm, and it is cooler,” York said. “From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. are the rough spots. The wind picks up and it gets really hot.”

When the weather gets bad, York said they pull over to the side of the river and pitch a tent.

“We will paddle through the rain, but we had to pull over during a thunderstorm,” York said. “We have been lucky and only had to do that once, so far.”

Since they are paying for the trip themselves and not with the money collected, typically they pitch their tents and stay on the side of the river.

While in Natchez, Andre Farish, owner of the Saloon, provided them with a free room upstairs. The group plans to make it to New Orleans by Aug. 10.

Monson said he has enjoyed his time in the south. The group spent a few days in Memphis and Vicksburg.

“We have met some of the nicest people down here,” Monson said.

York said he didn’t know what to expect of southerners.

“Honestly, the people we have met in Mississippi have been some of the best,” York said. “I love the accents.”

Wise said the group has raised nearly $2,500, with most of the money coming from people they have met along the trip.

For more information and to donate, visit www.canoeingforthecure.webs.com.

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