Men paddling 1,000 miles for diabetes awareness - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Men paddling 1,000 miles for diabetes awareness

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -  If you're around the Tennessee River over the next couple of days, you might see two men paddling on a special, thousand-mile journey.

Pete Stadalsky, 25, and Nolan McClelland, 21, of Illinois are canoeing more than 20 miles each day for the next couple of months, sleeping along river banks or any place they can find -- all to raise awareness for diabetes.

"This is our home, all 16 feet of it," said Nolan McClelland, gesturing at his canoe. "And all the junk we can carry."

McClelland and Stadalsky were paddling down the Tennessee River in Chattanooga on Thursday. They refer to the river as "The Aquatic Highway."

"It doesn't get much better than this," Stadalsky said.

With no motor or no hotels -- it's just two friends, a map and a compass.

"We decided to do a three-month, 1,000 mile canoe trip," said Stadalsky.

The roommates from Chicago started their journey two weeks ago. They started at Smoky Mountain National Park in N. Carolina and are headed down to the gulf coast in Alabama.

"It's not the easiest way to travel," said McClelland. "It's definitely not a way that we're familiar with."

It's a challenge on purpose. The friends grew up watching each of their dads struggle with diabetes. Their trip reflects that.

"Because it's this narrow path we have to take," said Stadalsky, "and there's a lot of unexpected things that pop up, and you have to deal with it. Kinda like [dad] with diabetes."

"It's some support for the guy who's supported me my whole life," said McClelland.

The guys said they're paddling across country for anyone with the disease. Their goal is to raise $10,000 for the American Diabetes Association. They've raised about $7,000 so far.

"It wasn't just like, oh, there's some crazy dudes in a canoe that are canoeing down for 1,000 miles," McClelland said. "We wanted to build a community out of it."

"If this trip has taught me one thing, it's don't ever underestimate people's ability to be kind, as well as your own," said Stadalsky. "Because there's a lot of good people out there who want to help."

Stadalsky said arriving in Chattanooga means they're about 1/5 of the way through their trip. The pair hopes to make it to their destination in Mobile, Al. around Labor Day.

To donate or follow their journey, click here.

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