Source-to-sea adventure

Dale Sanders on Tuesday, June 9, 2015, on the Mississippi River passing through Minneapolis. Sanders guessed his was the last source-to-sea paddling group to pass through the Upper St. Anthony Lock in Minneapolis before it closed for good to keep the invasive Asian Carp from spreading down river. (Photo by John F. Sullivan)

There’s an old saying that you are only as old as you feel.

Age doesn’t have to slow you down.

As people get older, staying busy and active keeps them going. It adds excitement and adventure to their lives.

Dale Sanders of Memphis, Tenn., is one of these people.

The 80-year-old man is doing something incredible. He is in the process of paddling solo the entire length of the Mississippi River – about 2,230 miles.

On his 80th birthday Sunday, Sanders marked his first month paddling the trek, which started in Itasca State Park, Minn., and is expected to end in August at the Gulf of Mexico.

Sanders will average 28 miles a day.

This is no small accomplishment, even for someone much younger than Sanders, but he is determined to reach his goal. 

Not only is Sanders trying to become the oldest man to solo paddle the length of the river, he is trying to raise $20,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Sanders’ great-niece, Anna Silvey, 11, of Olmstead, suffers from Type 1 diabetes. Her family, with the help of others, started Crusin’ for a Cure in 2009 in Bowling Green to raise money for diabetes research. On June 8, Anna’s birthday, an unnamed donor offered to match any money raised over 48 hours. The campaign helped Sanders reach 60 percent of his goal. The most recent count has donors contributing $12,463.88.

It speaks volumes about Sanders that he is dedicating his canoe trip to such a great cause. He will speak to groups along the river about Anna and her need for a cure. 

Sanders, who named his canoe, AnnA, is on schedule and getting into warmer climates after starting May 15 in freezing temperatures. He even paddled through snow one day as part of his long journey. While Sanders is in a canoe by himself, there are others with him. Richard Sojourner and Tom Graves, both of Memphis, and a film crew called Adventureitus are along for the adventure.

It has to be helpful to have friends with him on such a long journey. 

Thus far, it sounds like Sanders has had a neat trip. He even got to go through a lock that was being closed permanently in Minnesota called the Upper St. Anthony Lock, a series of three locks that lowers paddlers about 75 feet over 2 miles. Sanders signed on the wall. “Rest in Peace,” and included the date. 

What Sanders is doing is absolutely fascinating. Not only will he hopefully break a record of being the oldest man to paddle the whole river, but he is helping raise funds to help people like Anna and other diabetics.

We wish him the best on his trip and his fundraising.

— Anyone interested in making a donation can visit