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Making waves

The sound of waves lapping against the shore. The radiance of deep blue water and lush green forests. The joy of skimming across Maine’s lakes, rivers, and streams, powered only by the human body and an adventurous spirit. These are just a few of the things Clayton Cole appreciates about being out on the water in a canoe or kayak. For him, paddling is a way of life.

“The first experience I remember was being in a canoe with my grandfather and cousin,” he said. “I was small, so they were doing the paddling. I know I had probably been in a motorboat before and this just seemed so much better to me—the human-powered aspect, gliding along the water and being surrounded by nature and the beauty of Maine.”

Since then, he’s paddled in Canada and several U.S. states, and for the past 20 years, he’s organized dozens of paddling events throughout New England—most benefited charitable organizations. When EMMC Champion the Cure Challenge event organizers began discussing the idea of adding a paddling component to the annual walk/run/ride fundraiser that supports EMMC Cancer Care, they turned to Clayton and others in the paddling community for help. Clayton agreed to help with the event because he understood the devastation cancer causes from his wife’s family history of the disease. When Clayton was on board, others soon followed.

“In 2014, we participated in that year’s Champion the Cure, along with my wife’s brother who was a cancer patient at the time,” added Clayton. “If you can’t draw a line to someone in your own life, a family member, friend, co-worker that has not been affected by cancer, consider yourself lucky.”

Cancer is personal for his wife Paula. Two of her brothers succumbed to the disease within a 15-month span; one was 48, the other 54. One underwent treatment at EMMC Cancer Care, which reinforced for Paula the importance of having high quality care available close to home. It’s why when the canoes and kayaks hit the water this fall, she’ll be right there with paddle in hand.

“I’ve been an RN for a little over 40 years, and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable with Cancer Care in Brewer, Maine,” she said. “I think it’s imperative to support them, to keep up the research which is beyond valuable. You’d be hard put not to know someone that hasn’t been intimately affected by cancer. We’re all in this together, no matter what our lifestyles are, so we’ve got to give it what we’ve got.”

The inaugural Penobscot Paddle will take place at the Brewer Waterfront on September 15, about a month after the ninth annual EMMC Champion the Cure Challenge walk/run/ride event. A short mile-and-a-half loop will take paddling enthusiasts down the Penobscot to the Interstate 395 bridge and back. For a greater challenge, paddlers can make their way up the river (with an incoming tide) to the North Brewer boat launch on Route 9. The day will wrap up with a post-paddle celebration at Mason’s Brewing Company.

According to Clayton, the event will have something for everyone, from beginners to seasoned paddlers.

“We want to emphasize the fact that this isn’t a race, it’s not timed in any way,” he said. “You can paddle along with your friends and your co-workers, your neighbor, or whoever.”

EMMC Champion the Cure Challenge invites employees to volunteer and participate. To learn more about how to be a part of the EMMC Champion the Cure Challenge Penobscot Paddle, the ninth annual walk/run/ride event on August 18, or the EMMC Champion the Cure Challenge Horseback Trail Ride on October 13, please visit