Man rowing boat across Lake Michigan for cancer research

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Tony Mandarino of St. Joseph and father of Alex Mandarino, founder of the Alex Mandarino Foundation in honor of his young son who passed away from neuroblastoma at age five; rower Jacob Beckley; Tom Zanoni, friend and collaborator for row4acure; Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph. They are standing in front of Beckley’s boat which will be used in his journey across Lake Michigan. (photo supplied/Sen. John Proos)

Update: He’s going to try again Monday after rough conditions prevented him from setting sail Sunday

The leader of an organization that raises money for childhood cancer research plans to row a boat across Lake Michigan for the cause this weekend.

Jacob Beckley says he’ll set out Sunday on the 65-mile journey from St. Joseph to Chicago, which he hopes to complete in one very long day.

Beckley’s group is called Row For A Cure. Its primary focus is a form of pediatric cancer called neuroblastoma.

Last year Beckley embarked on a successful nine-day expedition to climb the second largest mountain in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range of California. He climbed a total of 36 miles, and raised almost $6,000 for pediatric cancer research.

This year, Beckley spent his time building a handmade boat that he will use to row across the lake.

The Herald-Palladium reports the vessel is embossed with the names of about 100 children who have cancer or have died from it.

“You have to keep everything in perspective,” said Beckley. “I can see an end in sight, which will make the row easier for me. I just wish kids who are afflicted with this disease and the parents of these kids had an end in sight, but that’s just not the case.”

Each day, approximately 150 kids around the world are diagnosed with pediatric cancer; the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15. Currently, less than 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s budget is solely dedicated to childhood cancer research.

“We have made great strides in the fight against pediatric cancer, yet cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for American children,” said Proos. “Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is an effort to help increase awareness of childhood cancer, renew our commitment to curing it and support the brave young people fighting this devastating disease.”

To donate or to track Beckley’s progress as he crosses Lake Michigan, visit the Row For A Cure website.

Beckley announced his voyage last week with Tony and Katie Mandarino of St. Joseph, whose 5-year-old son died of neuroblastoma in 2013.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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