Feb 26 2011

Kicking Cancer to the Wind

By: Tyler Lott

2011 Kiteboarder Crossing sails into NOLA

not there yet. Cancer in particular is a disease that is constantly evolving, mutating, and eluding researchers. But, one of the most amazing characteristics in the human nature is determination. With passion and ingenuity, people and organizations around the world come together every year to rally the troops and push harder than ever to find a cure.

Chris Stuckey, Indiana native (and proud New Orleanian since 2002) is working on doing just that. A professional kiteboard instructor, he has taken a classic, yachting event of national proportion—The Leukemia Cup Regatta—and added a little X-games style twist. Though mainly composed of sailing participants, Chris got the idea in 2009 to not only help fundraise for the regatta as an non-sailing, fundraising participant, but to combine the love of his sport and his dedication to the cause to help raise awareness to Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) mission.

"I'm a bit of a rogue sailor," mentions Stuckey. "As kiteboarding participant I have created my own event within the New Orleans Leukemia Cup Regatta."

Although actually kiteboarding across the lake is a one man show, Stuckey isn't doing this all alone. He's armed with a group of friends who help run the immediate base camp helping with promotions, fundraising, and marketing as well as the chase boat that follows him for safety. "I'm surrounded by an energetic bunch of guys willing to help me make this effort grow."

Where does one find the inspiration, dedication, and drive it takes to kiteboard 23 miles across Lake Ponchartrain? Well, every athlete has his/her inspiration. Sometimes it's a motivational song, sometimes it's a drive for personal excellence, but when it comes to cancer, all too often it's the loss of someone close that prompts such amazing feats of selflessness and determination.

About 15 years ago, Stuckey's father lost his battle with Leukemia. At the mere age of 13, the age when most boys are out playing ball or hanging out with friends, Chris was forced to face one of the most difficult moments in not only his, but his entire family's life.

"I'm passionately connected to this effort through the unfortunate loss of my father to [this] cancer. As a kid, this situation became my reality. Today, The Leukemia Cup Regatta is creating an avenue for me to take retribution on cancer through kiteboarding."

It is the memory of his father that helps him train year round and carries him the 23 miles across the lake.

"Crossing the lake is tough. Imagine climbing steps or using the stair-stepper for three hours, but as a user, you can't get off - or you drown - and you can't control the intensity or speed. Oh, and you've been holding a ten pound weight in both of your arms out in front of you! I mostly listen to my music... I focus on my riding. A majority of the time, I reflect on why I do this and I think about my father."

While research is making strides, it takes a significant amount of funds—and every dollar counts. In 2009 and 2010, Stuckey raised a grand total of $20,000; in 2009, he surpassed his $10,000 fundraising goal in just one month, bringing in over $5,000 in its final weekend through the use of social media.

This year's campaign is Stuckey's teams most aggressive to date. To help with the fundraising effort, The Kiteboarder Crossing is hosting an event on Mardi Gras weekend (March 5, 6, and 7) called, "Pee for the Cure". They will have a deluxe portable restrooms available on the corner of 7th and St. Charles where parade-goers can donate just $20 and receive a punch card good for 10 trips to the restroom. During Mardi Gras, most people would be willing to pay upwards of $50 to use a clean facility with the guarantee of toilet paper, so why not help cure cancer, too! The best part: you can share the card with your friends! T-shirts and coozies will also be available for purchase in order to help support the fundraising effort.

Although a relatively new event, it is garnering some much needed appreciation.

"We are very proud to have volunteers like Chris Stuckey, who are so passionate about our mission and creative with their endeavors. Chris' commitment to our efforts is contagious and he is an inspiration to us all. Truthfully, I think he's pretty cool!" says Lisa Alejandre, Executive Director of the Mississippi/Louisiana Chapter of LLS.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the national Leukemia Cup Regatta series recognized Chris as the first kiteboarding participant in the 17 year history of the regatta series in 2009. But, he's not trying to do it all on his own. Stuckey is also challenging other kiteboarders in the area to join as well! All that is required is a minimum fundraising or donation of $100.00 to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Can one person alone find the cure for cancer? No. It takes teams of fundraising crusaders, dedicated researchers, and advocates around the world. From now until The Leukemia Cup Regatta on April 2-3, Stuckey will be accepting donations via his web site, www.kiteboardercrossing.org. So, forgo that double mocha for a few days, reach in your pocket, and help LLS kick cancer to the wind.

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