A flotilla of 22 personal watercraft piloted by the Water Warriors stopped in St. Clair on Friday as their annual fundraising ride from Mackinaw City to Harsens Island neared its end.
“We’re stopping to give Mike LaPorte a plaque for his support of Polar Plunge,” said Darlene Markell, who lives in Marine City and is the financial officer of the group.
LaPorte, a city councilmember and owner of the Voyaguer Restaurant, hosted an after-Plunge party last Feb. 24 following the fundraising jump into the Pine River, which raised $12,000 in support of Special Olympics Michigan.The fundraising goal of the Water Warriors’ ride this summer is $100,000.
“We’re not far off,” said Markell before the small fleet left Mackinaw City at 7 a.m. on Monday, July 29, making stops along the 415 mile/five day ride at Cheboygan, Rogers City, Presque Isle, Alpena, Harrisville, Tawas, Standish, Caseville, Port Austin, Harbor Beach, Lexington, Port Huron, St. Clair, Marine City and concluding on Harsens Island at Brown’s on the Middle Channel. The group raised about $77,000 before they dropped their machines in the water at Mackinaw.
“As of last night, we were up to $85,000,” said Markell, who was on shore as the fleet, led by the St. Clair County Sheriff Department’s patrol boat, pulled into St. Clair about 11:15 a.m. on Aug. 2. “I broke down between Harbor Beach and Lexington, so I’m on land. My machine is on a trailer. I think it blew up.”
“Our fiscal year doesn’t end until Sept. 30 and fundraisers continue after the ride, so I’m pretty confident we can do it,” said Ann Plegue, of Fair Haven, chairwoman, in an email.
It was Plegue’s 19th ride and her husband Dennis’s 20th. Their son Jason, a Special Olympics athlete, climbed down a ladder on the Voyaguer seawall into one of the boats that accompanies the riders. “Normally, I get on in Marine City,” said Jason, who competes in cross-country skiing and poly-hockey, a version of floor hockey.
Markell was making her 10th trip down Michigan’s sunrise coast. Pat Addy, from Clinton Township, has made all 23 journeys. Jim Adams, director of special projects for Special Olympics Michigan, presented the plaque to LaPorte. “Mike’s been a great supporter here in St. Clair,” Adams said. The riders had a rough trip.
“The weather has not been the best,” said Markell. “Monday was terrible. We were running in eight foot waves.” Wednesday brought rain storms. Four personal watercrafts broke down on the way and couldn’t finish the journey. Three new riders joined the fleet in Port Huron.
More than 20 people provided land support for the riders, including two Special Olympic Michigan athletes. More than a dozen people rode in four boats supporting the riders in the water. The group that has raised about $2.3 million for Special Olympics Michigan over the past 23 years,
To contribute to the effort, send a check made out to Special Olympics Michigan to Water Warriors – Darlene Markell, PO Box 234, Anchorville, MI 48004.
Jim Bloch is a freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com.