Canoeing for a cause

Bryan Veginski
Lofty goals: Morton resident Hannah Grow, left, and close friend Marissa Weber train Monday at Eureka Lake for the Missouri River 340, the longest non-stop canoe race in the world. At 14 and 12 years old, respectively, they are the youngest to ever enter the event. Coinciding with the race, the girls are trying to raise $10,000 for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Hannah Grow of Morton and her friend, Wisconsin native Marissa Weber, are about to embark on an adventure few people typically experience.

And Susan G. Komen for the Cure will be the biggest benefactor.

The pair is aiming to donate $10,000 to the organization which fights breast cancer. As of Monday, they are more than halfway to their goal.

The event they will participate in beginning Aug. 4 has never been entered by teenage girls.

On the Missouri

Grow, who turned 14 years old July 13, and Weber, 12, are the youngest competitors in the Missouri River 340 expedition canoe race.

At 340 miles, it is the longest non-stop canoe race in the world.

Contestants have 88 hours to navigate the course from Kansas City to St. Charles, Mo.

Last year, one-third of the teams did not finish in the allotted time.

Even if they do not meet the time requirement, Grow and Weber still are determined to reach St. Charles.

“I’m sure we’ll finish,” said Grow, who admits to being very competitive.

Some of the donations received are on a per-mile basis, so every interval covered will help Susan G. Komen.

After the starting point, there are eight checkpoints where paddlers are required to sign in and out.

“We all have the ability to do it,” said Weber. “We just have to be focused on what the task is.”

Grow has been paddling for six years and attends an annual peak camp on the Wisconsin River.

To get ready for the race, she works out nearly daily with help from her friends.

“It’s cool to have friends who support you,” Grow said, who is an incoming Morton High School freshman.

Grow cross trains by running, lifting weights, rollerblading and going climbing at The Summits Edge. She also uses the P90X video training system.

Weber also is focused on adding strength with running, biking and exercises to target her abs, back and arms.

In a recent training session on the Illinois River, Grow got hit by an Asian carp, a fish that also inhabits the Missouri.

“It’s really scary to get hit by one of those huge fish,” Grow said.

Barges and fog are two of the most dangerous elements the girls could face.

Since barges can come up quickly, maneuvering around them is not easy.

If a heavy fog rolls in, Grow said the girls will have to stop until it clears.

It was not easy for the girls’ entry into the MR 340 to be accepted.

With their fathers, Tom Grow and Brian Weber, paddling next to them, the race director agreed to let Hannah and Weber in the competition.

But that is as close as the dads will get. The girls still must carry their own gear and their paddling must be independent of anyone else.

Hannah’s mother, Jenny Grow, will handle support, including delivering food and water and other necessary equipment.

“We want it to be fun for the girls,” Jenny said.

The friends of nearly 10 years are one of only six women tandems in the MR 340.

They will be among a field of world-class professional canoers.

Getting started

Grow has been exposed to outdoor activities since she was a toddler.

Tom Grow and Brian Weber co-owned an adventure-racing company.

The girls always were tagging along for a variety of endeavors like rock climbing, paddling and camping. 

“I always like to do adventurous stuff,” Grow said. “I’ve really grown up with the whole adventure thing.”

This is the first timed race for the girls.

They completed a 50.6-mile challenge in Michigan in April. They hold the distinction of being the youngest to ever complete the Hugh Heward 50.

Weber, a seventh grader to-be, also took part in the Everglades Challenge with her father. She said that competition included some sailing.

Grow always has possessed an ambitious nature, whether she is doing pull-ups while seeking a Presidential Physical Fitness Award or trying to help her team win an athletic contest.

Her friends have told Grow they are surprised how competitive she is.

Grow, the girls’ recipient of the Rick Lacy Award on the Morton Junior High School track and field team, said she has learned a lot about teamwork from her coaches.

Grow, who sits in the front, delivers the power in the canoe. Weber, in the back, provides knowledge from experience.

They have to be in sync on the water to get the best results.

Plenty of support

Many sources have stepped up to help Grow and Weber with their project.

RP Lumber, Kruger Canoes — Mark Przedwojewski, Kialoa Paddles, ELM LLC, SPIZ and West Hansen are listed by Grow as sponsors and supporters.

“I’m very grateful that they sponsored us,” said Weber.

Among the tools at the duo’s disposal are: matching pink paddles weighing less than one pound, a custom-built canoe and seat cushions, sleek paddling jackets, discounted speciality drinks and training costs covered.

Hansen, a record-holding competitor, said he will do whatever it takes to help the girls finish.

“Everyone is just so supportive,” Jenny Grow said.

Words of encouragement are pouring in for the tandem, who are spending the end of the summer break in a way not often seen today.

One item the group is seeking to be donated is a small RV, which would make it easier to store food and allow the girls to have an occasional warm entrée more readily.

Selecting a cause

Weber’s mother and several of the families’ friends and acquaintances have battled breast cancer.

The girls hope to raise awareness and contribute to the cause.

Their effort is one that has a chance to generate a lot of fan fare from well-wishers and those countless individuals who have been touched in some way by breast cancer. 

Grow said it is a really cool feeling to help while having fun.

The girls have not decided how they will present their donation since they reside in different states.

Anyone interested in making a donation can do so online at to/TeamKruger (click on “donate”), or by sending a check (made out to Susan G. Komen for the Cure) or cash to the Grows at 117 N. Illinois Ave., Morton.