Canoeing for a cause

BGSU student, two friends travel Ohio River to raise suicide awareness

By Marie Dunn-Harris '95

Nine hundred eighty-one miles. That’s how long the entire Ohio River is, and how far Bowling Green State University sophomore aviation major Tyler Brezina is canoeing with two of his high school friends from Miami University.

Brezina, Jackson Gray and Quinton Couch are raising money for suicide prevention. The three friends are on a mission to bring more awareness after their friend James Halley committed suicide.

“My boss was talking about doing a 50-mile canoe trip over one weekend so I started doing some research and found that only a handful of people had done the entire 981 miles of the Ohio River,” Gray said.

Gray put together the business side of things by lining up sponsors and setting up their GoFundMe and social media pages. They have businesses that have donated equipment, and suicide prevention groups that are helping them spread awareness.

Brezina helped with the logistics.

“We’ve been staying at marinas and parks along the way, but we also were able to stay at a trailer that belongs to friends of Jackson’s parents,” he said. “People are really nice and willing to help the cause.”

The three men left early in the morning on May 20 from the beginning of the Ohio River in Pittsburgh. Their family and friends were there to send them off, including the mother of their late friend.

“She dropped some of his ashes into the river so he was riding along with us,” Brezina said. “His family is eternally grateful.”

The team will end their trip where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi River in Cairo, Ill., at the end of June or early July. That means they are canoeing around 29 to 32 miles per day.

“We’re definitely feeling it by the end of the day,” Brezina said. “We get on the river by 6 a.m. and we’re done by 5 p.m.”

The team has so far has raised more than $4,000 of their $7,000 goal. They’ve also heard stories from people around the country who appreciate their effort.

“A woman in Colorado whose son passed away due to suicide wrote us a message on Facebook,” Brezina said. “She was so inspired and thanked us for spreading the word.”

Brezina is also inspired by the support he’s getting from his friends at BGSU.

“It’s amazing when I see on Facebook that they shared my post or say they’re proud,” he said.

You can follow Brezina and his friends’ trip on the “Race the River 2017” Facebook page