Reporting Shane Kitzman
There are two reasons (one rational, one irrational) why Brock Wood is going to have no problem kayaking the 2,400 miles down the Mississippi this summer.
1. Hodgkin’s lymphoma knocked on the 18-year-old’s door less than one year ago. Though the cancer vehemently tried to make Wood’s body its permanent residence, the football team captain kicked it to the curb on March 29 in spectacularly speedy fashion.
“It’s a credit to God,” he said. “And I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my family and friends’ support – and the entire town of Alexandria.”
2. The locks he sported as center for the Alexandria Jefferson boys hockey team would have made Samson blush — for proof, go to 0:58 of the video below. Anyone who can sport that kind of flow can do, well, anything.
On Monday, June 17, Wood and his good buddy Jesse Hacker (who’s conveniently an Eagle Scout) embark on a 60-day trek down the country’s largest tributary – from Itasca to New Orleans.
The goal? To roundup $100,000 for lymphoma research through his Paddle4Kins fundraiser, aiming to defeat the disease for everyone that he personally thwarted just four months ago.
Here’s what you need to know about what Wood’s gone through and where he’s going.
He nearly didn’t come home after a Colorado hunting trip
The signs were popping up for Wood, who had missed 50 days of school his senior year, but the cause was unknown. That is, until he suffered heart-attack-esque symptoms while elk hunting with family in Colorado on Oct. 17, 2012.
He made it back to Minnesota, and the Mayo Clinic told him he was going to battle Hodgkin’s lymphoma less than a year removed from receiving his high school diploma.
He started the fight in November, and finished it by delivering cancer a KO before Easter.
“The doctors were looking at the scans and said that they’re one of the best they’ve ever seen … and that it’ll never be back,” Wood said.
His father, Dan, thought of tackling the Mississippi
“We wanted to do something big for lymphoma research, and my Dad thought ‘Go big or go home,’” Wood said. “We thought about rivers and lakes around Minnesota, but decided why not the whole United States so that this can go nationwide.”
The pace is 50-60 miles a day
“We’ll wake at 5 a.m., eat some Mountain House Freeze Dried Food, then eat some granola bars around midday, and finish at 4 p.m. to have another Mountain House Food,” Wood said. “We plan to take 10 to 15 days worth of food, and then when that runs out, we’ll stop and head into town. We’re packing all our gear into one single pack.”
The duo has some friends and family willing to give them a roof and a shower along the way, but are choosing to rough it if at all possible.
“We have gotten into shape,” Wood said. “Our Hobie Kayaks have pedals in them, which will be a two mph difference for us – we’re shooting for eight mph.”
He’s ready to be outside his comfort zone
“We’re a big hunting family, and I’ve done a couple trips out to the boundary waters,” Wood said. “But 60 days is a long time for anyone. And we’ll only be stopping for tornadoes. We’re bringing an emergency radio so we can contact the Army Corp of Engineers if necessary – they’ve been really good helping us with maps, and getting through the locks.”
They’ll be uploading videos along the way, so follow along
“We’ll post a 10-minute video every day as we have GoPro attachments to the front and back of kayaks,” Wood said. “We’re sponsored by Best Buy and GoPro.”
There are other sponsors who make this possible.
“Hobie Kayaks have been big with the help,” Wood said. “Tuffy’s Dog Food out of Perham and Culligan Water are sponsoring us. And Geneva Capital is our biggest donor.”
River robbers are real
“People will follow you for a couple days to take your gear from you because our gear is probably worth $1,500 in just one single pack,” Wood said. “If they swipe it, we’re out of our trip. That’s why our stuff will be in our tent next to our head.”
He’ll be piloting aircraft next
In August 2012, Wood attended Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn., with his eye on becoming a pastor. But the freshman switched career paths just weeks in, and wasn’t quite able to register in time for fall semester at the University of North Dakota to become a pilot.
And then, the lymphoma diagnosis arrived just weeks later.
But that’s the past – the future has Wood flying high.
“I just got my pilot license and am working to hopefully go to Crookston next year and be a crop duster,” he said. “In the off-season I’ll do some mission work, flying into smaller cities in South America.”