81-year-old veteran brings hope down the river

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Miss. (CNN) — Stan Stark didn’t expect to find this kind of welcome when he paddled to shore in Cape Girardeau.

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m really overwhelmed.”

It’s one stop on this veteran’s long trip down the Mississipi River.

Stark started his adventure in Minnesota back on July 15th. At 81-years-old, He’ll be the oldest person to kayak down the Mississippi river, setting a new world record.

“The beauty of it is you meet beautiful people, and you learn about the region,” said Stark.

While his trip could be award-winning, there’s a bigger reason for his months on the water. As a retired Navy Seabee, he’s raising awareness and money for Sarge’s Place, a Washington State shelter for homeless veterans.

“There’s a lot of these smaller organizations that are reaching out to help veterans, and I felt that this is where I need to put my effort.”

Other Kayakers join him along the way and he says “River Angels” give back to him at each stop, inviting him into their homes for a meal or place to sleep.

One Cape Girardeau “River Angel”, Judy Cantoni, said, “That’s just the nature of folks who live in Cape Girardeau and the surrounding areas.”

Laura Ritter, another Cape Girardeau “River Angel” said “They’ll be well taken care of and loved on. We want to show them the best hospitality ever.”

As people on land wish him well, Stark’s positive outlook on life is hard to miss.

“It doesn’t make any difference if you’re 60 or 70 or 80,” said Stark. “Ya know you can do these things. Get up off the couch. Buy a kayak or a bicycle or whatever you want to do, and get up and smell the roses.”

Stark plans to finish his goal by the end of November in the Gulf of Mexico.


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