81-year-old veteran stops in Cape Girardeau as he kayaks the Mississippi River

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 6:30 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - A warm welcome was waiting in Cape Girardeau for a retired veteran who’s kayaking the length of the Mississippi River.

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m really overwhelmed,” said Stan Stark.

Cape Girardeau’s one stop on his long trip down the Mississippi River.

“We’ve seen flora and fauna that I didn’t even know existed. All types of birds and wildlife along the way," he said.

Stark started his adventure in Minnesota back on July 15th and plans to finish by the end of October at the Gulf of Mexico. At 81 years old, he’ll be the oldest person to kayak down the Mississippi River, setting a new world record.

“The beauty of it is you meet beautiful people, and you learn about the region," said Stark.

While his trip could be award-winning, there’s a bigger reason for his months on the water. As a retired Navy Seabee, he’s raising awareness and money for Sarge’s Place, a Washington State shelter for homeless veterans.

“There a lot of these smaller organizations that are reaching out to help veterans, and I felt that this is where I need to put my effort," he said.

Other kayakers joined Stark along the way.

He said “river angels” give back to them at each stop, inviting them into their homes for a meal or place to sleep. That’s no exception in Cape Girardeau.

“First of all that’s just the nature of folks who live in Cape Girardeau and the surrounding areas," said Judy Cantoni, who helped organize his stop in Cape Girardeau.

“They’ll be well taken care of and loved on. We want to show them the best hospitality ever," said Laura Ritter, whose house the kayakers are staying at in Cape Girardeau.

As people wished Stark well, his positive outlook on life was hard to miss.

“It doesn’t make any difference if you’re 60 or 70 or 80. Ya know you can do these things. Get up off the couch. Buy a kayak or a bicycle or whatever you want to do, and get up and smell the roses." he said.

Stark plans to spend a few days in Cape Girardeau before he continues his trip.

Stark has a website with more information about his journey and donate to Sarge’s Place.

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