By Jennifer Fisk
In between her sessions of the 24-hour paddleboard event last Saturday in Wrightsville Beach, Tracy Skrabal was staffing the donations tent when a curious passerby stopped to ask about the cancer fundraiser. Now in its fourth year locally, Skrabal explained the mission of “24/Go Because You Can,” which raises funds that go directly to local families struggling to fight cancer.
“Out of the blue, the donor contributed $1,000,” Skrabal said. “We want to demonstrate support through the community. There are people that want to support you through the fight and are there to help.”
The unexpected donation was part of a fundraising haul that doubled what the Wrightsville Beach participants raised in the same event last year. With $10,000 raised so far, 10 families with a member fighting cancer will receive envelopes with $1,000 cash, along with a note that says: “There is a community of people who love you and are fighting for you”.
This event was started five years ago by founder Troy Nebeker of Seattle. His wife had cancer and was going through treatment and he found paddle boarding helped him through the emotional strain of watching his wife fight off the disease. This year there are 41 cities participating in this event.
“This is how the grassroots movement began”, stated Tracy Skrabal. Skrabal has been organizing the local event for four years.
“The show of support through coffee from the Workshop and slices from Blaze Pizza were definitely appreciated,” Skrabal said. Blaze Pizza gave all the money raised from their pizza sales in house during the period of time when riders were paddling on Saturday at 8 am until Sunday at 8 am.
“We want to keep the donations private and simple. Sadly, we are all touched in some way by cancer. This paddle event is a simple gesture to provide the support and hope during a very difficult time, but it can be healing for those who join the paddle, or support the team on behalf of their loved ones or themselves,” she said.
This year two people came from out of state to show their support. They had read about the benefit and drove from their prospective homes in Kentucky and South Carolina. These “drop ins”, said Tracy Skrabal, are part of what makes this event so supportive to the families whom come out. Nicholas Montoya, the Blockade Runner general manager, paddled out with his daughter while the owners of the popular hotel watched from the shore. The Blockade Runner hosted the event.
The money was raised by having fundraisers throughout the community. Before the event, team riders and the health care community in Greenville came together at “Stumping Hasket House” to throw axes and raise $2,000. Other donations came through the GoFundMe site. Donations are still being accepted until April 19, 2019.
The paddling team was made up of six riders. Each rider took two shifts. The shifts lasted two hours. The two teams that together make up “Team North Carolina” would paddle two riders at a time. The riders on team North Carolina were very diverse.
There were two children who lost their mother to pancreatic cancer. Brian Lee’s sons both rode for all eight hours of drop ins. There were even a few people out there that had never used a standup board before but had wanted to show support and found this the perfect opportunity to learn a new hobby, Skrabal said.
Every year the number of states has grown and with it so has the financial support. In 2018 the 20 states now involved in “24 and Go Because You Can” paddle out raised $162,000.
“The hope is for this year to be double that just as it did here in Wrightsville Beach,” Skrabal said.