Fundraiser born of a passion to paddle

A few years ago, Shawna Thompson and Kathy Boyle were kayaking together when they had an idea to use their hobby to raise money.

The women both belong to the Alplaus Ladies Auxiliary of the Alplaus Volunteer Fire Co., which had been looking for community service projects. Out on the water, Thompson and Boyle had a brainstorm: How about an event where people paddled on the Mohawk River, pledging donations for the American Cancer Society?

We both had people important to us die of breast cancer, Thompson explained.

So, in 2006, the auxiliary hosted the first Paddling for a Cure, inviting kayakers, canoers and people with rowing shells to enjoy a scenic 5-mile trip down the Mohawk to Llenroc, the 30,000-square-foot mansion in Rexford, and back. This year's event, the auxiliary's third, is slated for Sunday, July 20, with paddlers leaving the Capital Region Maritime Center in Alplaus at 9 a.m.

That first year, Thompson and Boyle, the event coordinators, had hoped to raise about $5,000 for the Cancer Society, which would be earmarked for breast cancer research. Instead, the 63 paddlers who took part brought in $12,000. Last year, 85 paddlers combined to raise $14,500.

"The money just kept rolling in," said Thompson, who hopes to draw 100 paddlers and raise $20,000 this year.

"They have done a phenomenal job," said Anthony Marino, the regional vice president of the American Cancer Society. He noted that while his organization has a decent-sized staff, "There's only so much that we can do day in and day out," making events like the Paddling for a Cure invaluable.

For Thompson, it's a great way to mesh a sport she loves with a worthy cause. Thompson used to be an avid canoer, taking frequent trips with her husband.

"I like being on the water," she said.

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