By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller
For the ninth time in 10 years a group of experienced stand-up paddlers and kayakers set out early Saturday morning on a journey from Montauk Point to Block Island. The 18-mile paddle was completed roughly six hours later, with 29 participants having raised more than $80,000 for the local non-profit Paddlers for Humanity, which works to improve the lives of children.
“We had a good paddle, but it’s always a little bit challenging,” said P4H co-President Fred Doss, who completed the paddle himself. “Last year there was tremendous wave action. This year there was sort of a side current that kept people focused. We had a nice balance of men and women, veterans and newcomers. It’s pretty intensive, there’s no question about it.”
Doss said participants in the race are expected to have completed at least a 3-mile paddle before the Block Challenge, meaning the event is not designed for novice or beginner paddlers. There is great support on the water, however, with what Doss called “an incredible support team” that included Dan and Sue Farnham, Tom O’Donoghue and Steve McMahon, Rich Kalbacher, Rob Lambert and Steve Brierley of East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue.
“There is no way we could do the paddle without them,” Doss said. “What always is interesting is there’s understandably some trepidation. You’re paddling in the middle of the ocean, and how often do you get a chance to do that? But the paddlers always feel very safe and secure.”
Leaders of Paddlers for Humanity spent the last year trying to hone their mission in hopes of donating funds to the most needy of causes. Doss said what they discovered was a deficiency of comprehensive mental health programs for kids and youth on the East End.
Funds this year will be donated to the Family Service League, a social service organization based in Suffolk County, which will receive $30,000 as a result of Saturday’s event. East Hampton Middle School will receive $26,000 to fund a new initiative called WhyTry?, which is a resiliency education program that will be rolled out to sixth graders this fall.
The Bridgehampton School’s Positive Behavioral Supports and Intervention Program, which results in changing behavior through a focus on the positive, will receive $20,000 in funding, while East Hampton High School will receive $5,000 for programs that address early intervention for kids dealing with depression and bullying.
Also, 19 students from East Hampton High School will travel to a village in Nepal in February on a service program with buildOn, an organization that, among other things, builds schools in developing countries. The students will live in the village for over a week, and experience life in a new and profound way. Last year 15 students from the school went to Senegal.
“Paddlers for Humanity provided funding for that trek as well,” Doss said. “We will give $15,000 towards the costs” this year.
“Our mission has evolved but it has always been about community and health,” Doss concluded. “We tightened the mission to programs to help kids and better the lives of kids. We’re working with kids on resiliency and their core strengths. We feel really good about that focus.”