2552 Miles for Charity

To provide emergency shelter and supplies to people who have lost their homes after natural disaster or fled because of civil conflict, Erik Elsea of Cape Coral, Fla. has been solo paddling the entire length of the Mississippi River this summer to raise funds for ShelterBox USA.

Basing the distance off the famous marker at the Headwaters, so far on Elsea’s 2,552 mile journey, he has raised $50,000 – enough to shelter more than 50 families.

Erik Elsea - Mississippi Expedition

Elsea began his trip on July 7 with a canoe launch party hosted by the Park Rapids Rotary Club at Itasca State Park in Minnesota. He finishes Oct. 5 at the Gulf of Mexico.

Approximately 40 people attempt to canoe the entire Mississippi River each year, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Elsea plans to complete the distance in 90 days, with a goal to average 25 miles a day.

I’ve always dreamed of canoeing the Mississippi River from the Headwaters in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.

They say it takes a drop of water 90 days to go that distance, so that’s what I’ve decided to do.


Support ShelterBox

For every $100 donated, you can adopt a mile of Erik’s trip and support ShelterBox’s vision for a world where no family goes without shelter when disaster strikes.

Follow Erik

ShelterBox Mississippi Expedition 2018


Follow Erik’s adventure!








Commemorating the Great Flood

“As a realtor, I know how important it is for people to have a home and a community,” said Elsea. “By supporting ShelterBox, we can help ensure that many more families around the world will have shelter when disaster strikes.”

ShelterBox provides humanitarian aid in the form of family-sized tents and essential tools to start repairing and rebuilding homes. Additionally, the organization’s kits and boxes contain items that help transform shelter into a home, like cooking sets, solar lights, blankets, water filtration, and activity sets for children.

Elsea first learned about ShelterBox through the Cape Coral Rotary Club, where he is finishing up his year of service as Club President. ShelterBox started as a Rotary club project and is Rotary International’s official Project Partner in disaster relief.

“I’m honored to be both a Rotarian and a volunteer ShelterBox Ambassador,” said Elsea. “The collaboration between the two organizations enables many more people to receive the help they need after losing everything.”

Along the way, Elsea has given presentations about ShelterBox to groups such as Rotary clubs and other interested organizations. To date, he has spoken to more than 50 Rotary clubs along the route.

Elsea’s trip is sponsored by NovaCraft Canoes, Jack Links Protein Snacks, and Vango outdoor equipment.

Elsea grew up near St. Louis, Mo. and canoed in the lake behind his house as well the Boundary waters of Minnesota, which is when he began his dream of canoeing the entire Mississippi. He remembers sandbagging against the Mississippi during the Great Flood of 1993.

“Flooding remains the greatest natural cause of devastation on our planet,” said Elsea. “I want to commemorate the 25th anniversary of that Great Flood by supporting relief efforts for others around the world who have lost their homes in recent disasters.”

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia


My heart breaks for the families who have lost loved ones and the survivors who face such unbelievable devastation.

I’m glad I can be part of an organization like ShelterBox that is there to help people on their worst day ever.

About Erik

Erik Elsea - Mississippi Expedition for ShelterBox


Growing up just south of St. Louis, in Waterloo, Illinois, Erik was passionate about three things: Cardinals baseball, BBQ pork steaks, and the dream of canoeing the entire Mississippi River. He was also very competitive and always wanted to race whether on foot, on a bicycle or in a car.

Erik moved to Tennessee to attend Nashville Auto-Diesel College with a dream to race NASCAR someday.

It wasn’t long until he realized that he loved warm winters and palm-tree boulevards, and Southwest Florida was the right place: there’s plenty of opportunities for racing, he can grow his real estate business and he rarely has problems convincing people to come visit!


ShelterBox - Erik Elsea - Shut Up And Paddle


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ShelterBox booth with John Hewko - Rotary Convention 2017

The global support from the Rotary International network is the cornerstone upon which ShelterBox is built.

Rotary International’s logistical support on ShelterBox deployments is just as critical as the generous financial support we receive from Rotarians and Clubs worldwide.


Learn more about this unique global partnership:

Launch Day

Saturday, July 7, 2018