The obvious link between a fish and a canoe is water. But due in part to a 9-year-old Wisconsin canoe race, another link is being made to cancer. Proceeds from the Callie Rohr Memorial Canoe Race are helping find a cure for brain tumors.
Besides raising awareness for pediatric brain tumors, the canoe race on the headwaters of the Wisconsin River near Conover, Wisconsin, has designated the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago Research Center as the new beneficiary of its fund raising.
The race, to be held June 8-9, was conceived by Jeff and Marcia Rohr as a living memorial to their daughter, Callie, who died from the disease just short of her 10th birthday in 1999. The effort raises between $12,000 and $15,000 every year and has generated over $100,000 since its inception.
One of the numerous research paths being pursued at the research center in Chicago is the utilization of zebra fish cell mutations in tracking malignancy through high-tech cameras and electron microscopes. This work is one of the reasons the Rohrs selected the facility as a recipient of proceeds from their event. Another reason is that Dr. Tadanori Tomita, the surgeon who operated on and cared for Callie during her illness, is overseeing a number of the projects.
"Even though we are a pretty small funding operation, they made a big deal of it when Marcia and I visited," Jeff Rohr recalled. "The fact that Dr. Tomita remains directly involved in both treating kids and doing the research, and that we knew him from his work with Callie, was a big deal to us."
The canoe race is part of a season-long money raising effort. Jeff and Marcia begin soliciting items at spring paddle and tourism shows to auction off during the race weekend. Raffle tickets for the prize of a kayak are sold all summer with the drawing held in August.
The 26-mile race takes place over a Saturday and Sunday. Pros put in Sunday morning and paddle the full route in one day. There are a myriad of paddlecraft classes and distances to choose from, include a 13 miles and three miles.
Volunteers prepare five meals with each feed presenting another chance to raise cash. The event culminates at Eagle River Inn on Sunday afternoon with a roasted pig dinner, awards and more auctions and raffles.
A central inspiration of the event remains the headwaters of the Wisconsin River itself - the clear stream Callie loved to paddle. Remote, twisting and wild, the route presents a unique race or a gorgeous float trip however one chooses to approach it. Either way, its a big win against cancer.
For more information, go to rwtcanoe.com/canoerace.htm or contact Rohr Wilderness tours at 715/547-3649.