Man making dream come true with Mississippi River journey by canoe

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Erik Elsea had dreamed of canoeing down the Mississippi River since he was 9.

For Elsea’s 40th birthday he finally took to the river, not just for himself, but to raise funds for a charity that makes sure disaster relief groups have the supplies they need to help people.

“I just turned 40, so I thought this was either a really good 40th birthday present to myself or midlife crisis,” Elsea said. “Either one, I’m having the time of my life.”

Elsea started his journey in Lake Itasca, Minnesota on July 7. His goal is to raise $100 for every mile of the Mississippi along the 90-day trip to the Gulf of Mexico for ShelterBox USA.

That’s $255,200 if he reaches his goal. Elsea, a leader of his local Rotary Club chapter in Florida, is getting much of the funding from Rotary clubs, other civic organizations and individual donors, he said.

ShelterBox is a disaster relief charity that sends life-saving equipment ahead of time to 11 different places around the world so groups can respond rapidly after natural disasters, and man-made conflicts like the Syrian refugee crisis.

“Our ShelterBox consists of, typically, things like tented shelter, blankets, ground mats, mosquito netting, solar lighting, water purification systems,” Elsea said. “Things you would need after you’ve lost everything. Basically on your worst day ever. ”

Elsea said he’s had to deal a variety of challenges, including weather and barges.

“There are all kinds of challenges, but that’s what makes this an adventure and what makes it fun. If it was easy I wouldn’t probably even want to do it,” Elsea said.

Elsea and his team decided to plan 90 days for the expedition to allow for him to visit the places he wanted to visit and to give presentations and spread the word about ShelterBox.

People can follow Elsea’s journey via satellite visit this website.

If you’d like to donate or learn more about ShelterBox and the expedition visit

“This has been better than I ever imagined. I’m really having the time of my life.”

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.