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Epic journey for kids

A group of Vancouver Island men want to turn their love of kite boarding into a money maker for B.C. Children’s Hospital. They have been out in the chilly waters off of Oceanside (above) preparing for an epic crossing of the Georgia Straight in April.  - Submitted by Ken Droog
A group of Vancouver Island men want to turn their love of kite boarding into a money maker for B.C. Children’s Hospital. They have been out in the chilly waters off of Oceanside (above) preparing for an epic crossing of the Georgia Straight in April.
— image credit: Submitted by Ken Droog

BRENDA GOUGH

NEWS Contributor

Four local Vancouver Island men have taken on the challenge to kite board across the Georgia Straight to raise money for the BC Children's Hospital Foundation.

What's more, this story has a link to Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson, Premier Christy Clark and naked kite boarding. Read on.

Months of organization have gone on to launch the epic, strait-crossing event and Ken Droog of Parksville, Harold Grindl of Nanoose Bay, John Stathers of Qualicum Beach and Allan Berry of Nanaimo are counting on Mother Nature to cooperate in the first two weeks of April.

The challenge the participants face range from the required wind and the variable of the Straight known to produce gale force winds, high seas and frigid temperatures all of which can be potentially life threatening conditions.

Droog is the one credited for coming up with the idea and he had no trouble convincing his kite-boarding buddies to jump on board so in April when the winds are blowing potentially up to 35 knots per hour they intend to cross the Georgia Straight and back.

Ambitious, definitely dangerous — these words don't even phase the daring dudes who hope their immense challenge will raise a lot of money for a charity that is near and dear to all of them.

Droog is a realtor in town who already donates to the Children's Miracle Network through every real estate transaction in his business with RE/MAX First and he has family and friends who have had the need of the BC Children's Hospital.

The 41 year-old who took up the sport of kite boarding just five years ago said it was an easy decision to take his support of the charity to the next level and that is why they created their website www.kitingforkids.com.

The B.C. Hospital Foundation is officially supporting the event and has provided a donation button on their website so people can feel confident they are donating directly to the cause which is ultimately to build a new children's hospital in the province.

"One hundred per cent of funds donated will go to the hospital foundation.  All of the costs including gear and behind the scenes are born by the participants and volunteers," Droog said.

He added that Slingshot Sports, a manufacturer of kite boards based in Oregon, is a major sponsor and is donating the equipment.

"They are donating thousands of dollars worth of gear directly to the cause which will be auctioned off afterwards," he said.

Droog admitted that it has been a lot of work finding sponsors and putting their ambitious plan into place for their first annual event, but he pointed out that he and his fellow kite boarders have even bigger aspirations and are exploring other ways to expand their mission.

"This is going to be ongoing. We wanted to start out with a B.C. event but we really want the global kite boarding community which is massive to get on board."

Stathers, whose love for the outdoors led him to be an avid sailor as well as a certified ski instructor, transitioned to kite boarding two years ago. He explained that they want to focus on this one as their premier challenge even though it has many risks.

"It is not going to be an easy feat. The four of us who are going to attempt the crossing . . . it is very possible that one or all four of us will not make it," he said, but added he hopes the global community will pick up on the event and create their own challenges to raise money.

To that end, they have made Sir Richard Branson an honorary member of kitingforkids, but need some help extending the invitation to the flamboyant British billionaire to join them for the crossing.

They would like the help of B.C. Premier Christy Clark to use her connections to Branson and get him on board.

When Branson was in the province last May promoting his airline, he asked Clark to accept his invitation to come for a kite surf ride on his back but it came with one caveat: she had to be naked.

He even posted a photo of himself on his blog kite surfing with a naked young woman on his back, saying he forgot to tell Clark about the dress code.

"Want a ride? Check the dress code," said the title of his post.

Initially, Clark's office issued a statement calling Branson's comments a publicity stunt. Branson "is well known for his brashness and ability to manipulate media coverage for his company," the statement said.

Clark went further admitting she didn't think it was very respectful.

But in the premier's New Year's resolution she said, "I will accept Richard Branson's kind invitation to come water skiing . . . OK that was just a joke."

Droog said they think the premier could use the exchange of comments that occurred between the two of them to generate some good will. "We have put it out there to the premier's office but they have declined to be involved which is too bad because we think the comments that surrounded Branson's tweets to the Premier could be used for something positive. She should ask him to come and support an event like this. The end result is raising money for the children's hospital and it is far more beneficial to have people in these powerful positions working towards a good cause instead of just throwing comments back and forth."

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