2017-04-27 / Front Page

Teens Cross Straits To Promote Water Protection Message

By Kevin Hess


Eighth graders Gordie Lafontaine and Kadin Patterson paddled the Straits of Mackinac on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, to raise money for and bring awareness to the need to protect the waters. They were joined by three members of Stand Up for Great Lakes, a nonprofit organization that teaches others about the importance of protecting local waters and beaches. Here the crew is pictured just before they launched from Bridge View Park in St. Ignace. The team consisted of (from left): Gordie Lafontaine, Kadin Patterson, SUFGL members Kwin Morris, Joe Lorenz, and Jeff Guy. The five made it across the Straits in less than two hours. Eighth graders Gordie Lafontaine and Kadin Patterson paddled the Straits of Mackinac on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, to raise money for and bring awareness to the need to protect the waters. They were joined by three members of Stand Up for Great Lakes, a nonprofit organization that teaches others about the importance of protecting local waters and beaches. Here the crew is pictured just before they launched from Bridge View Park in St. Ignace. The team consisted of (from left): Gordie Lafontaine, Kadin Patterson, SUFGL members Kwin Morris, Joe Lorenz, and Jeff Guy. The five made it across the Straits in less than two hours. Two eighth-graders from Cherryland Middle School in Elk Rapids took to the Straits of Mackinac on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, to bring awareness to protecting the Great Lakes. Kadin Patterson and Gordie Lafontaine have been best friends as long as they can remember and were recently paired for a class assignment that required them to devise a community project. Their science teacher, Kwin Morris, inspired them to do something for the Great Lakes.


14-year-olds Gordie Lafontaine (left) and Kadin Patterson teamed up with members of Stand Up for Great Lakes (SUFGL) to paddle the Straits of Mackinac and bring awareness to the need to protect local waters. Gordie and Kadin raised more than $4,000 for their cause. 14-year-olds Gordie Lafontaine (left) and Kadin Patterson teamed up with members of Stand Up for Great Lakes (SUFGL) to paddle the Straits of Mackinac and bring awareness to the need to protect local waters. Gordie and Kadin raised more than $4,000 for their cause. Mr. Morris belongs to a non-profit organization called Stand Up for Great Lakes (SUFGL), which aspires to educate, protect, and advocate for the protection and preservation of the Great Lakes. The group tours schools in northern Michigan to teach students the importance of taking care of the water and keeping beaches clean.

The students first suggested a project to clean up their local beach. Mr. Morris encouraged them to think bigger, however, and they developed a plan to raise money and awareness by crossing all of the Great Lakes standing on paddle boards.


The paddle-boarders followed the wind to the southwest before coming back around, paddling underneath the Mackinac Bridge, and to the southeast shore of Mackinaw City. The southern peninsula is visible here. The crew took a break underneath the bridge to take a quick dip in the water. The paddle-boarders followed the wind to the southwest before coming back around, paddling underneath the Mackinac Bridge, and to the southeast shore of Mackinaw City. The southern peninsula is visible here. The crew took a break underneath the bridge to take a quick dip in the water. “I love to see the next generation step up and wanting to take care of our waters,” said Mr. Morris.

To prepare over the past several months, the two boys trained three times a week from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. and paddled on the boards once a month.

They promoted their project and raised more than $4,000 for SUFGL. Earth Day was a natural choice to make the trek across the Straits. Kadin Patterson and Gordie Lafontaine were not alone. Mr. Morris and two other SUFGL members joined them, and two support boats with medical staff accompanied them. Each paddler wore a dry suit and ankle leashes. The weather was cold, but the sun was shining, providing a spectacular view for their journey.

Because of wind direction, the group started their journey on the north side of the bridge, launching from Bridge View Park in St. Ignace and ending on the shore of Mackinaw City. Both students were eager to get going.

“I’ve never done something like this, but I’m excited,” said Kadin.

“The weather’s great, I’m warm, I’m ready to go,” said Gordie.

The trip took the group less than two hours and included a quick jump into the water beneath the Mackinac Bridge.

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