Last year, we were excited to be part of an epic challenge: our friend Deb Walters was determined to paddle a customized Chesapeake 18 kayak more than 2,500 miles from Maine to Guatemala to raise funds and awareness in support of building schools and opportunities for the children and families of the Guatemala City garbage dump community. In early November of this year, Deb's quest earned the world's attention when she was named a 'Global Woman of Action' in ceremonies at United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Deb began her venture in July 2014 in Yarmouth, Maine, home of Safe Passage, the organization for which she has been working all this time, and headed south, one day’s paddle at a time. Along the way, she made hundreds of new friends and raised thousands of dollars for Safe Passage. She even stopped in to see us in Annapolis as she went by.

Clearly a courageous woman who does not shrink from a challenge, retired scientist Deb is also pragmatic. She had some understandable concerns about paddling so far a distance, alone most of the time, facing an ever-changing variety of natural and manmade hazards and tests. Her biggest worry by far, however, was that she would be injured along the way. Unfortunately, as her journey continued, she began to suffer recurring shoulder pain, taking various treatments along the way to allow her to continue her quest, until last January, when she was forced to stop outside of Charleston, S.C., and undergo surgery to repair damage to her shoulder.

Although she had to come ashore and put down her paddle before finishing the trip, Deb continued her public speaking and fund raising for Safe Passage, and ultimately generated more than three times her original $150,000 goal. Most people would have been more than satisfied with that. Not Deb.

On September 24 of this year, recovered from surgery and feeling fit, she brought her kayak and expedition gear back to Belle Isle, S.C., the point at which she stopped paddling nine months earlier, to pick up where she left off.

"It was a tough decision to go back and paddle the remaining 1,000 plus miles of the expedition route," Deb wrote in her blog. "But when I thought about the grit and determination of the children and parents at Safe Passage, I realized I had no choice. To properly honor them, I need to push myself and paddle on, and continue to share their stories."

Although she's been picking up press and local news coverage along the route since she started her voyage so many months ago, Deb recently was featured in an episode of New Hampshire Public Television's popular "Windows to the Wild." The 26-minute video offers a good look at why she's doing this, where she's been, and where -- and why -- she will go on before she's finished.

Deb Walters answering questions after her address at the UNA few days after entering Florida waters in early November, Deb had to take another break in her quest to complete the distance. This time, she headed to New York City, where she was recognized at the United Nations as a Global Woman of Action and gave a short speech to the assembly. She’ll be back on the water again after Thanksgiving, and along with thousands of others we’ll be watching her go on her blog and Facebook pages. Join us as we cheer her on to the finish line.

 


 



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