Michigan couple makes stop in KC as they canoe along Missouri River for charity

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Every marriage is a bit of a journey, but Gary and Linda De Kock never dreamed they would spend their retirement paddling across America along the Missouri River.

“Never did we expect to spend our retirement this way,” Linda De Kock said.

Their journey began in Montana in June and has taken them through tunnels, over rapids, under bridges and dangerously close to trees.

Gary and Linda De Kock paddle down the Missouri River.

“We spent a tornado in a vault toilet one night,” Linda De Kock said.

But this is no joy ride. This couple from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is paddling with a purpose.

“We’re not just out for the day. We’re doing it for a purpose,” Gary De Kock said. “Our purpose is to raise money for ‘Water for People.'"

The nonprofit based in Denver provides clean and safe water for villages in third world countries. The couple has an online fundraising link on their Facebook page, Padding for a Purpose, to support the organization.

“You see women and children walking 5 miles a day, several times a day, to get water,” Linda De Kock said. “When Water for People goes there, and then we go back 5 years later, the children are in school. The women started businesses.”

After Wednesday night’s pit stop in Kansas City, their journey will end in 10 days in St. Louis where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers meet.

“The kindness from strangers is an amazing thing along the river,” Linda De Kock said. “I could tell you stories for hours.”

While other retired couples may have different ideas on how to spend the Golden Years, the De Kocks said they’ve never been happier.

“It feels like the most meaningful part of our lives so far,” Linda De Kock said.