City Lights: Just keep paddling

There have been a couple of Oscar-winning movies in recent years dealing with the disconnects between people in different walks of life. One was "Babel," which tells the story of how a random act of violence connects people in dirt-poor Mexico, terrorist-scarred Morocco, posh Japan and a wealthy American suburb. The other was "Crash," a study of modern-day Los Angeles in which, to paraphrase a line of dialogue, some people exist in such isolated worlds that it requires a car accident to bring them together.

The truth is, many of us do live in our own bubbles. There are some, though, who don't wait for a fender-bender to reach out to the less fortunate. As this week's Exhibit A, look at Sean Clancy and Bill Rasmussen, a pair of Huntington Beach residents who kayaked from their hometown to Catalina Island on Saturday to raise money for the charity Dream Street Foundation.

Neither Clancy, who owns a liquid packing distribution business, nor Rasmussen, an account executive for an automotive consulting company, has children like those served by Dream Street. But through a series of connections, they both ended up kayaking for seven and a half hours Saturday — and, in the process, raised more than $14,000 to fund a one-week camp for children with cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis and other diseases.

For Rasmussen, the father of two small children, the trek to Catalina was his first. His longtime friend, Clancy, started the charity drive two years ago. His neighbor served on the Dream Street Board of Directors, and after Clancy participated in a benefit golf tournament for the nonprofit, he became inspired to do a fundraiser of his own.

Because Clancy owned a kayak and had water-skiied to Catalina before, he decided to put the two together. With pledges from friends and family, he made the journey alone the first year — and raised more than $15,000. The next year, he garnered nearly the same amount. When he started planning Saturday's journey, though, he sensed that more participants would help maintain interest in the project. Rasmussen, who had been part of the crew following Clancy on a motorboat during his first two trips, volunteered.

When I met with the kayakers Monday, the first thing they talked about was how sore their muscles were. My own greatest athletic achievement was winning a 90-second pushup contest once, so I could imagine the stress of seven and a half hours of nonstop rowing. But when I asked if they were on board for 2011, they replied without hesitation.

"Absolutely," Rasmussen said.

"Now he's roped in, man," Clancy said. "And I'll bet you I'm going to have a third person join me. If I could get eight or nine or 10 more kayakers, I'd love it if this thing could take on a life of its own."

He noted that the week before he and Rasmussen hit the waves, he paid an individual visit to Dream Street's annual camp in Santa Ynez and had the kids write messages on his kayak in permanent marker. The messages, Clancy said, kept him going during the tougher parts of his journey.

"I remember looking down at the kayak and seeing the things the kids wrote — 'Keep rowing,' 'You're the greatest,'" he said. "You're hurting and tired and seeing your friends on the support boat who are sick and tired, and then you think of those kids who are throwing up every week because they're on chemo, and then you realize you can do it."

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at michael.miller@latimes.com.

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