Student paddles 216-mile fundraising kayak trip

Associated Press • May 22, 2013 at 6:59 PM

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — A Western Michigan University student has completed a six-day, 216-mile kayak trip down the Muskegon River to raise money for Parkinson’s disease research, education and advocacy.

Cody Ledsworth paddled to the finish line at a boat launch on Muskegon Lake on Tuesday. The 20-year-old’s trip was in honor of his grandmother, Marguerite Ledsworth, who has the disease, The Muskegon Chronicle reported.

The trip has raised more than $2,300 for the nonprofit Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, just short of his $2,500 goal. Considering that his original goal was $500, he’s pleased with the results.

“I was surprised,” he said of the donations. “It’s a lot more than I thought it would be. We crushed $500 in the first few hours.”

The journey was filled with challenges. Headwinds made the paddling more work. And on the first day, his kayak sprang a leak and started taking on water. He patched it and later received a new kayak from Muskegon’s KL Industries, which also made a $500 donation.

“It’s fantastic, just fantastic,” Dennis Ledsworth said of his grandson. “The love that is shown through this is amazing. ... We’re just so proud of him.”

Cody Ledsworth, who graduated from Mona Shores High School in 2011, had company over the weekend; Mona Shores High students Jared Karnitz and Nate O’Neil joined him on the river on Saturday, stayed overnight, then paddled again on Sunday.

The family’s fundraising efforts are expected to continue.

Next month, Cody Ledsworth’s 15-year-old brother Chase plans to ride a longboard to from Ludington to Bay City. Chase said he was inspired by his brother.

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