Paddlin’ pastor realizes a childhood dream

Most children have dreams. Some come true; some never do.

The Rev. Jerry Schumm, now a man in his fifties and a pastor at the United Church of Christ (Congregational) in Miami, is one of those children who never let go of his dream. This fall he is finally achieving it—he is navigating the entire length of the Mississippi River by canoe.

Schumm started his trip at Lake Itasca August 27. He calls his expedition “Pass the Paddle” because, while he is going the entire distance, 19 friends and family members are joining him, one at a time, on pre-determined legs of the journey. Hence, they Pass the Paddle. (Pictured are John Masterson, Glen Kraywinkle and Rev. Jerry Schumm visiting at a campsite at Lindbergh State Park Wednesday morning before Masterson and Schumm continued their journey down the Mississippi River. Staff photo by Joyce Moran)

Schumm began the trip with an old scouting friend. Others who have taken the paddle so far have been his wife, Dr. Jeanne Schumm, and Steve, a friend who was his best man in his wedding 32 years ago. Another old friend, John Masterson, a provost at Texas Lutheran University, was with him as he passed through Little Falls last week.

“There’s no ‘cause’ to this trip,” Rev. Schumm explained. “I’m just living a dream with good friends. About a year ago, I sent out letters to all my friends and family members telling them of my dream of ‘passing the paddle.’ Those who wanted to, and could find the time, are the ones making the trip with me now.”

While the minister admits he is enjoying the scenery along the river, he added that the most fulfilling part of the trip is the time he is spending with friends—old and new.

The finding of one new friend by Schumm and Masterson occurred in Little Falls where they met Glen Kraywinkle. “He waved us down as we passed by his house,” explained Schumm. “Kray is one fine ambassador for the City of Little Falls! He told us where we could camp at Lindbergh Park, and then later came and took us out to dinner.”

A camper and canoeist himself, Kraywinkle later explained that he “figured the two men were ready for some ‘civilized’ food after eating oatmeal, trail-food mix, freeze-dried foods and canned food for several days.” The two enthusiastically agreed with Kraywinkle’s assumption.

Schumm went on to add that he and his companions were having no trouble keeping warm. “We’re following the five Ps,” he said. “Preplanning prevents pitiful pitfalls.”

Concluding, Rev. Schumm explained how exactly his childhood dream developed. “Well,” he said, “in the third grade, Mississippi was one of the longest words I could spell. And, I knew it was a great river—one of the best known in the world. Then too, I had read and enjoyed Huckleberry Finn.”

Schumm plans to reach New Orleans on December 17. During the 2,205 mile trip, he keeps in touch with his wife on a cell phone. She, in turn, gives an update to their son-in-law who posts the Paddlin’ Pastor’s progress on the website—www.passthepaddle.com.


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