A fleet of 85 paddlers braved unusually harsh weather on Saturday, June 3 to celebrate the second annual Paddle for a Purpose. The fundraising event featured a five-mile trek by canoe, kayaks, and paddleboards down the Damariscotta River from the Damariscotta harbor to Glidden Point Oyster Farms in Edgecomb.
Paddle for a Purpose benefited Hearty Roots, a Midcoast nonprofit that uses non-clinical, nature-based therapeutic adventures to help kids build resilience and mental health.
Glidden Point Oyster Farms was the scenic setting for the post-paddle celebration with music, food, and live and silent auctions that raised more than $20,000 for Hearty Roots.
Although the weather plummeted from 85 degree sunshine on June 2 to 45 degrees and raining on the morning of the June 3 event, the organizers assessed the safety and decided to forge ahead despite the cold rain and wind.
“A key aspect of Hearty Roots is to help kids embrace whatever the day may bring and to foster resilience in the face of challenges,” said Haley Bezon, founder and director of Hearty Roots.
“Resilience is waterproof,” added board President Ali Stevenson.
“We’re so proud of our hardy supporters for not letting tough Maine weather ruin a good time, and for showing that anything’s possible with a positive mindset and community support,” said Bezon.
Those that braved the rain enjoyed seeing loons, seals, and an eagle as they paddled downriver with the wind at their backs past several oyster farms.
Glidden Point Oyster Farms’ barn market store and attached tent provided supporters with some shelter from the classic Midcoast drizzle, while Bezon presented an overview of the Hearty Roots cause and their goal to gain funding to create a waterfront campus.
“One in four kids in Maine struggle with mental health issues – and this data includes only the ones that have been officially diagnosed with anxiety, depression, ODD, ADHD and more,” said Bezon during her presentation. “We must get real about counteracting the toxicity that comes with their phone screens and social media for these pure and precious canvases that are waiting for us to fill them with joy-filled experiences in real life.”
During the After Paddle Party, more than 145 event supporters danced to the festive beats of music performed by Primo Cubano and feasted on oysters, food, and drinks provided by local businesses including Oxbow Brewing Co. and Glidden Point Oyster Farms.
Paddle for a Purpose Awards were presented to the fastest paddlers, Erik Donahoe and Gus Bezon, slowest paddler Holly Zeller, and most spirited, Molly Thibault.
Overall, the community-based event and the donated items for the auction were supported by more than 30 sponsors, including local founding supporters Glidden Point Oyster Farms, Carson Douglas Landscape Architecture, and Midcoast Kayak.
“Maine’s outdoor spaces should be adventured on by the local kids who live here year-round, with families of all financial abilities, not just reserved for families who can afford a six-week summer in Maine experience for their kids,” Bezon said.
Hearty Roots strives to meet the need for year-round access to mental health mentors and outdoor adventures for local kids. For more information, go to heartyroots.org.