A Boat and A Journey

“When you find yourself in a boat, you find yourself on a journey.”

--Jim Cummings, Urban Trekkers

   My son, Sam, and I arrived at a private marina south of Trenton early on Tuesday morning.  We wore our boating shoes.  We wore t-shirts and bathing suits.  We were slathered with sunscreen and we wore hats.  We were ready to paddle from Trenton, NJ to Camden, NJ. That’s a distance of 25 miles, about a 45-minute car ride.  For us, and the 50 or so others who stood with us wearing the same get-ups and smelling of the beach on the 4th of July, we were looking at a 5-hour journey down the Delaware River.

            I had agreed to climb into an out-rigger canoe as a way to raise funds for one of my favorite missions:  Urban Promise/Trenton.  Sam had been roped into paddling by me, his old man, because he is young, fit, and outstanding in boats of all shapes and sizes.  He and I were a part of Team Trenton, and all the money we raise goes directly to support the wonderful work of Urban Promise in Trenton.  Through the strong and Christ-like leadership of Carl Clark, the Executive Director of Urban Promise in Trenton, young people are finding rich alternatives to the lure of the street and drugs.  I met a number of great young people from Trenton who paddled as hard and as long as anyone.  These kids were courteous and ambitious and as likeable a group as you’ll find.

            Thompson Church has been one of the strongest supporting churches of Urban Promise/Trenton.  That makes me proud.  In a few weeks, we will lead a week-long summer camp for some 100 children.  Someone from Urban Promise/Trenton said that TMPC always leads the best camp of the summer.  If you would like to help out on any of the days of the camp, which runs from Monday, August 3, through Thursday, August 6, please contact Rick Foltz. Rick’s email is: rickfoltz@mac.com.

            You can see a photo of me in the boat we paddled.  It was a six-person vessel.  Half the seats were always filled by members of the Philadelphia Outrigger Canoe Club.  These women and men are serious paddlers.  They row 15-mile races at a pace of 60 strokes per minute.  We rookies were paddling an hour at a time at a leisurely pace of 50 strokes per minute.  One crazy woman, who paddled like a broken machine stuck in high gear, shouted over her shoulder, “Are you feeling the burn?”  Oh, yes, our shoulders and backs were on fire.

            We took turns in the canoe.  When we weren’t in the boat, we were on one of the power boats that trailed us.  It was a gorgeous summer’s day.  The rowing was a great workout and the conversations we had on the trail boats were even better.  As we approached our destination, a marina just below the Ben Franklin Bridge, a fire boat from the Philadelphia Fire Department shot water cannons in honor of Urban Promise and the paddlers.  Standing along a railing of the marina were dozens of young people from Urban Promise in Camden. At first I didn’t realize that the fire boat and kids were there for us.  I believe that the good work of Urban Promise, in Camden, Wilmington, and for us, in Trenton, is worthy of every ounce of celebration.  Now, if I could just raise my arms to clap.

            If you would like to contribute something to Paddle for Promise, thank you!  Here’s a link to my page.  You can make a pledge there.  http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/StuartSpencer/paddle-for-promise-2015