Kayaker raising cancer funds ready for the river

Toby Stigdon, the Seymour High School graduate from Columbus who is undertaking a kayak paddling trip for cancer fundraising for Schneck Medical Center, has far exceeded his original goal before setting out on the White River this week.

Stigdon, who has been given a terminal cancer diagnosis, and some friends and relatives plan to paddle 66 miles on the White River. His initial goal was to raise $6,600 so other individuals could have related financial expenses covered by the Schneck Foundation of Seymour.

However, as of Monday, even before beginning, Stigdon, 42, unofficially has raised more than $20,250 (with some still to be counted) that the Seymour-based medical outlet will use to defray travel, medication and other such expenses for other cancer patients. More has been donated online but had not yet been added into the overall total.

None of the money is going to Stigdon because he has good health insurance. Stigdon is suffering from poorly differentiated thyroid cancer, which has spread.

“I am excited and nervous,” Stigdon said this week.

Friends, family and donors will gather outdoors at 6 p.m. Thursday at Upland Pump House in Columbus. About 7 p.m. Stigdon and some of those accompanying him will put their kayaks into the river and paddle a mile or so just to get started while avoiding darkness, then camp on a sandbar.

What began as a solo paddling idea has mushroomed in scope to pretty much a flotilla.

“We may be,” Stigdon said.

Stigdon will be joined by cousins J.R. and B.J. Strong, brother Levi Stigdon and friends Greg Foley and Rex Thompson, both of whom live in Columbus but work in Seymour.

“I am truly blessed,” said Toby, who is married and has two children.

The group plans to spend nights along the river Friday and Saturday and complete the paddle Sunday in Sparksville before greeting well-wishers at Perry Street Tavern in Medora around 4 p.m. Sunday.

The forecast is for clear skies but with overnight lows perhaps dipping into the 30s.

“We’re going to have to bundle up,” Toby said.