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Pair breaks from job search to challenge 'Mighty MIssissippi'
By Sammi King | Daily Herald Columnist

Jake Mullins, left, and Aaron Drendel of Batavia plan to canoe the Mississippi River this summer to raise money for breast cancer research.


Photos courtesy Jake Mullins and Aaron Drendel

This is the canoe Jake Mullins and Aaron Drendel will use in their trip down the Mississippi this summer. The 20-foot Tripper XL was donated by Old Town Canoe and Kayak Co.


Jake Mullins, forefront, and Aaron Drendel train in Galena earlier this year. The pair will likely be dressed for warmer weather when they embark on their Mississippi River canoe trip at the end of May. The trip is a fundraiser for breast cancer research.


From left, Aaron Drendel and Jake Mullins of Batavia train in the Fox River for their fundraising canoe trip down the Mississippi.


Courtesy Jake Mullins and Aaron Drendel

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Published: 4/16/2010 12:03 AM

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How you can help

Get in touch: Log onto or e-mail Or become a fan of the Facebook page, Canoe for the Cure.

Make a donation: Visit the blog and click on the pink ribbon. All donations are tax-deductible.

Jake Mullins and Aaron Drendel of Batavia have a goal. They plan to canoe 2,320 miles down the Mississippi River this summer. And they plan to raise money for cancer doing it.

The two young men are recent college grads who are finding it difficult to find a job in a down economy. With the search going on for more than a year, they decided to take a break and plan a canoe trip. That plan turned into the challenging ride down the "Mighty Mississippi."

It soon evolved into a trip that would raise money for breast cancer research.

"We both have had people we know and love go through the challenge of fighting breast cancer, so we decided to turn the trip into a fundraiser for the Susan G Komen Foundation," said Mullins, 22.

Aaron Drendel was in college when his mom, Missy Scardina, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I had come home for the weekend and we all went out to dinner," said Drendel, 23. "It didn't sink in right away. I never thought that she wouldn't make it. I was fearful but I was positive."

For Jake Mullins, the experience wasn't a family member but it still hit close to home.

"My girlfriend, Molly Mann, lost her aunt to breast cancer and then her mom, Karen Mann, was diagnosed," said Mullins. "Seeing firsthand what the family was going through was definitely a reason to do something to help with cancer research."

The two immediately began reading books and blogs from others who had challenged the river. They started training in the gym and doing long extended canoe trips on local rivers. They planned the itinerary, starting in the northwoods of Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

It wasn't long before they had a Web site - - up and running. They obtained 501 (c3) nonprofit status so that donors could make tax-deductible contributions. They even printed up business cards.

"We plan to blog all the way down the river so that people can follow our trip," said Drendel.

A trip to Canoecopia, a paddle sport trade show in Madison, Wis., proved to be very profitable for the two.

"Not only did we get a top-of-the-line canoe donated for the trip from Old Town Canoe and Kayak, but we also got to connect with others who had already gone down the Mississippi," said Mullins.

The boys realize this trip won't be a calm float down a river. They know they will battle the elements, hot weather, thunderstorms and possibly even tornadoes.

Even the smallest problems can become a big challenge while on the river.

"I canoed recently in the early morning and thought there was a low rolling fog over the river," said Mullins. "When I actually got into the fog, I realized it was some sort of gnat and they were everywhere. I had to get off the river because I was breathing them in."

"We have been told that barge traffic is also a concern," Drendel added.

Learning to paddle fast may be at the top of the list.

The boys know that this could be the greatest adventure of their lives and they look forward to not only navigating the river but meeting the people along the way,

"We have been told that the people who live along the river are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet," Drendel said.

The two friends know the challenges ahead of them don't compare to the challenges that breast cancer patients face every day, some suffering through the aftereffects of chemo and the pain of radiation. Others fight for their lives as aggressive forms of the disease ravage their bodies.

"We hope that people will log on to our Web site and make a pledge," said Mullins. "Even if it is just a penny a mile, we'll appreciate anything that people donate."

If you would like to be a part of the adventure that Jake Mullins and Aaron Drendel begin at Lake Itasca, Minn. on May 29, log onto and follow their trip down the river. Then follow the link to the Susan G. Komen foundation. Your donation will help fund the research needed to find a cure for this dreaded disease.