Charity Float to Conquer Cancer

A Majestic Natural Resource & Fun Pastime Combine for a Great Cause
(written for and published by Penn Lines - a Rural Electric Co-operative Magazine) by Dave Potchak


New Enterprise REC customers are truly blessed to reside in such close proximity to the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River in Bedford County.  Combine this natural resource with today’s popularity of canoeing and kayaking, add the community’s desire to help others, and you come up with a fun-filled activity – kayaking to raise money to conquer disease.

The recent recession and poor economic outlook didn’t dampen the spirits of all who participated in the “Canoe and Kayak to Conquer Cancer” event held May 16, 2009 in the waters that feed Raystown Lake.

262 boaters in approximately 230 kayaks and canoes contributed just over $8,700 in the inaugural event.  The recipients were the American Cancer Society’s local chapter of the Relay for Life and the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center.  Pledges and donations were accepted at the registration table prior to the start and tee-shirts and 50-50 chances were available for purchase also.

Bus transportation from the parking lot at the finish, to the start of the event of was provided by Ron and Marge Barton of Hopewell.

The launch took place at the Joe Ritchey Bridge in Tatesville at 10:00am and the journey concluded at the old Cooper’s Saw Mill Road just south of Hopewell.  As participants floated past the Cypher Beach area, restroom stops were provided, and early-out options were permitted too.  The weather was hot and humid, and bringing a snack and beverage along was encouraged.  Floaters were treated to some awesome “Dueling Banjos” music from Deliverance as they floated by the Penrod Beach area where resident Ted Huff blasted the music across the river. 

At the conclusion of the 10 mile trek, everyone (including those that elected not to float) was invited to the Harry and Ruth O’Neal Pavilion area in Yellow Creek for a pig roast, complete with three acts of live entertainment.  Donations of currency, food, beverages, labor, tee-shirts, transportation, boat rentals and talent were plenty as the local residents went all-out for the cause. 

“I didn’t hear one negative comment from anyone,” proclaimed new kayaker Stephanie Detwiler during her first kayak trip a week later.  “I’m sorry I missed the event, but I will be there next year,” concluded the cancer survivor.

The event was promoted by Float for Charity, an initiative designed to highlight a selected charity or effort to battle disease.  Each year the New D-day governing board selects a different charity for inclusion in the organization’s endeavor.  In 2008, St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis Tennessee was the chosen charity.  Next year, the board will once again select another organization to which proceeds will be directed. 

This author has been a patron of the Raystown most of his life – having been introduced to its existence as a child growing up in Cambria County.  When my wife and I purchased kayaks two years ago, I was not surprised to discover how many boating enthusiasts took advantage of this natural resource, located practically in our back yards.  Following a period of serious health woes and acquiring an unexplainable urge to give back, the idea of combining the sport of kayaking with a calling to do some good fell into place rather easily. 

I am pleased not only to have been a part of the promotion of this event, but I am also proud to have taken part as one of the boaters.  All of my family contributed to the initiative too, as boaters and as volunteers.  My son and his friends from the Philadelphia area and my daughter, residing in San Francisco, exemplified the cross-country scope of the event.   

The greatest gratitude, however, goes out to the local people who shared their time, donations and labor to bring this to fruition.  Without the assistance of co-organizers Chris Weitzel and Maggie Morgan and the residents of the local area, the float would not have been a success.

True to any first-time event, a lot of the little bugs still need to be worked out for future occasions.  One consideration will be to avoid other functions scheduled for the same weekend next year, as a race took place a few miles up-river this spring on the same date. 

Despite remaining along the river bank for a few extra hours to help participants and to assist removing a truck stuck in the mud, Weitzel didn’t hesitate to reply when asked for a recap.  “We will do this again next year,” he said with a grin.  “We’ll know better what we’re doing, and it will get bigger and better.”

Next year’s extravaganza has been scheduled for May 22nd, 2010.  “Many of the negative incidents will be re-worked, and all the positive factions will remain in the future,” agree all three organizers.

To view a complete breakdown of this year’s event, complete with a “special thanks” page, please visit   Once there, click on the “Conquer Cancer” page.  Details describing next year’s plans will appear there in the near future too. 

“Organizational meetings will take place early next year,” explains Morgan.  “If you would like to volunteer, or serve on a committee, please let us know.” 

If you are interested in learning more about next year’s charity float, or want to volunteer, please contact Maggie at  or call 814-652-6563. Please wait until fall to make your contacts, however.  Maggie and Chris are very busy this summer planning their wedding.  Apparently, the river and kayaking are conducive to romance, too. 

by Dave Potchak – PennLines contributor




My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA