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Muskegon 20-year-old to Kayak 200 miles on Muskegon River for Parkinson's Disease Awareness

By Justine McGuire

A solo kayaking trip more than 200 miles down the Muskegon River to raise money for Parkinson's disease will be a first for local 20-year-old Cody Ledsworth.

The trip is set to begin Wednesday morning, May 15. He plans to begin his journey as close to Houghton Lake as possible and kayak to Muskegon Lake in about a week's time.

The expedition is in honor of Ledsworth's grandmother, Marguerite Ledsworth, who has been struggling with the disease since 2002.

"(Grandma) knows about it, she couldn't talk so she didn't really say anything about it - she cried," Cody said. "It's been tough. She's not doing too well right now."

Cody is hoping to raise $500 for the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, which provides research, education and advocacy through his Parkinson's Champion page.

So far, the page has raised $50, but his mother, Ann Ledsworth, said he has more pledges, but doesn't officially have the money yet.

"The fundraiser won't be enough to save my own grandmother, but I hope it raises awareness and helps save future people afflicted with Parkinson's," Cody said on the page.

The Parkinson's Disease Foundation is excited to partner with Cody for his trip.

"We are grateful for PDF Champions, like Mr. Ledsworth, who are dedicated to funding the most promising research and raising awareness about the impact of Parkinson's," said Robin Elliott, Parkinson's Disease Foundation director. " His efforts to help PDF improve the lives and futures of the nearly one million people across the country living with Parkinson's are inspiring."

The idea for "Paddle Against Parkinson's" was inspired by one of Cody's friends who did a fundraiser in 2012 with long boarding. He came up with the idea in October, but didn't start preparing until about two weeks ago.

"He's been planning it a long time," Ann said. "But he just in the last two weeks was like, ‘Oh, I'm doing this.'"

Cody's grandfather, Dennis Ledsworth, has repeatedly tried to convince him not to go on the expedition, Cody said. His concerns include bears, logs, currents, dams and the fact that he's going alone.

After a black bear swam across Muskegon Lake to Muskegon on Monday, causing a stir and leading to the Lakeshore Trail being closed most of the afternoon, Cody said he's nervous about bears too.

"I keep telling him I want him to call or text me every night so I know where he is," Ann said. "I need piece of mind that (he's) not floating."

Cody will be carrying his phone, but plans to keep it off unless there's an emergency.

He plans to spend about seven days on the water, traveling 30 to 40 miles of the more than 200-mile river each day -- "just a leisurely day," he said.

Although he's never done a trip of this length, Cody said he kayaks about twice a week and he's the recreation director at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference in Norton Shores. He is also a student at Western Michigan University, where he's pursing courses in environmental studies and travel and tourism.

Ledsworth packed supplies for up to 10 days, including many canned soups, applesauce and Reese's Pieces. He also has a tent, a camp stove, a sleeping bag and a hammock in case of rain, along with a very limited supply of clothing.

He'll be loading everything into waterproof barrels and coolers then into a two-person kayak.

Most of the supplies were provided by Cody's father, Jon Ledsworth. Cody said his father has been a big help and very supportive of the trip.

When he finishes the kayaking trip, Ledsworth's Champion page will be left online, making it easy for him to do more fundraisers or repeat this one.

"We'll see how this one goes first," he said.

Source Date: May 14 2013
Source Publication: M Live
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