Teachers to kayak for charity

It's 26 miles from Catalina Island's Avalon Harbor to the Newport Aquatic Center, but that won't stop Paularino Elementary School teacher Lisa Roberts from tackling the distance via kayak.

On Saturday, the fifth-grade teacher will team up with her colleague, fifth/sixth-grade teacher Shannon Spining, for the third Kayaking 4 Kids event.

The two started the nonprofit to raise money for the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) Arts Advantage Program and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Last year, the pair raised $1,500. This year, Roberts hopes to eclipse that amount.

"We don't have a set goal, but as much as possible," she said. "Infinity would be nice."

This time around, another NMUSD teacher, Alicia Arvizu, and a parent from Paularino Elementary School, Breanna Sotelo, will join them on the trek.

The foursome will take turns paddling in a tandem kayak. They will switch off every hour while the other two ride alongside in a boat donated by NMUSD school board Trustee Dave Brooks.

Kayaking such a distance requires conditioning.

"We train as often as possible," Roberts said. "We try to go throughout the year. We do a lot of practicing during the summer."

Paddling on open water is exhausting, she said, but the cause keeps her going.

"Knowing the reason why we're doing this, and knowing we're doing something that will make education better for the children of the district, is what keeps me going," Roberts said.

The kayakers will arrive at the Aquatic Center for a celebration of their accomplishment. There will be hot dogs and hamburgers and, of course, camaraderie.

"People are welcome to come down and cheer on," Roberts said.

The group's efforts haven't gone unnoticed by the school district.

"The teachers involved in Kayaking 4 Kids are heroes in my mind," said NMUSD spokeswoman Laura Boss. "They give amazing amounts of their own time to train for the Catalina to Newport trek, all in the name of supporting arts for kids. They deserve the support."

Added OCDE Visual and Performing Arts Unit Coordinator Jim Thomas: "Lisa and Shannon have created Kayaking 4 Kids to raise money for education. OCDE's Arts Advantage program received a generous grant of $500 from them to support materials purchases for arts instruction in the classroom. Because of Kayaking 4 Kids, several classrooms had art supplies for the year."

After the long trek, Roberts said the feelings will be a mix of "exhilaration, relief, excitement and pride that we made it all the way across … and hand cramps."

The team will be launching from Avalon Harbor at 6:30 a.m. and fans can watch via their Facebook page.

They expect to arrive between 3 and 4 p.m. at the Newport Aquatic Center, 1 White Cliffs Drive, for the celebration.

"Kayaking 4 Kids is the perfect example of the groundswell of support for the arts in Newport-Mesa," said Scott Fitzpatrick, a music teacher at Rea Elementary School. "My wife and I are planning on being on hand tomorrow afternoon to cheer them in."

Online donations can be sent via http://www.kayaking4kids.org.

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