Every year since 2000, a group of kayakers paddle from Miami to Key West, Fla., to raise money in the fight against cancer. Over the years, the group, called Castaways Against Cancer, has raised more than $1.3 million, and this year’s trek might be its most successful.
Two of the Castaways are BSA executives and Eagle Scouts. Anthony Berger, BSA’s national director of Cub Scouting, and Patrick Linfors, the Scout executive for the Garden State Council in New Jersey, along with a dozen other paddlers will make the 160-mile, weeklong journey this June. We reported on the duo’s 2018 trip. This year will mark Berger’s 11th trip and Linfors’s 22nd.
They each have donation pages on the Castaways website. In the past, funds would support the American Cancer Society. This year, the Castaways, a nonprofit, is partnering with the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, which will match all funds the Castaways raise for cancer research projects at the cancer center.
Linfors has participated in every paddle trek since the Castaways’ inception. He joined when Steve O’Brien, a Miami high school teacher, launched the effort after losing his mother and grandmother to cancer. O’Brien recruited fellow teachers Dave Isenberg and Bob Linfors, Patrick’s brother, for the journey, and Bob asked Patrick. The four men raised $10,000 that first year.
In 2001, Patrick recruited his friend and fellow Eagle Scout Chad Forbes, whom he met while working at a Scout camp in Florida. The group has slowly grown with more participants and higher donation totals every year. Last year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Castaways still raised more than $90,000. Last year was also the first year partnering with the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center after two decades and more than $1 million of support for the American Cancer Society.
Each paddler gets in the water with a mission: to help end cancer. Many have had loved ones affected or lost to the terrible disease, which is the second leading cause of death in America. Patrick’s brother and wife are cancer survivors; he lost his father to mesothelioma in 2019.
Berger lost his mother to ovarian cancer in 2010; the trip in June falls on the anniversary of her death. Two years later, his father passed away due to complications with his battle with cancer.
The group members honor survivors and those who have died with a ceremony where they lay flowers in the ocean at sunset.