(Sept. 19, 2014) On Tuesday, at 7:30 a.m., eight bartenders launched into the water on a six-day journey from Ocean City to Baltimore to raise money and honor their friend Patrick “Scunny” McCusker.
The second annual Scunny Memorial Paddle raises money for the Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation, a favorite of McCusker’s.
“He passed away two years ago in a bus accident in Ocean City,” said Kate Sachs, communications director for Believe In Tomorrow. “He used to work in Ocean City and he owned two restaurants in Baltimore – Nacho Mama’s and Mama’s on the Half Shell. He had a huge personality and he was just kind of a character. Everybody knew him and everybody has stories about him. He also had a huge heart, so he was a huge fan of Believe in Tomorrow and did a lot of fundraising for us.
McCusker launched his own kayak fundraiser running from Baltimore to Ocean City in 2006.
“He got lost along the way,” said Sachs. “He had a boat that lost him. It was kind of a whole debacle, but it was very in tune with the person that he was. It was a great thing and it was funny.”
Jason Mislan and “Delaware” Dave Powell joined McCusker during one of his fundraising trips in 2009, rowing from Quantico, Va. to Baltimore.
“After that one, we swore we would never do it again,” Mislan said. “The day of Scunny’s funeral – after the funeral – we were sitting around the bar and that’s when Dave and I, kind of teary-eyed, just looked at each other. Not only is this a horrible situation, but now we definitely have to do what we swore we’d never do again – we definitely have to do another trip and honor Scunny.”
Like last year, all of the Memorial Paddle participants work in the bar industry. Mislan, who works at Max’s Taphouse in Fell’s Point, said preparation for the six-day trip could be “a little crazy.”
Powell, who works at Nacho Mama’s in Baltimore, said he had never been in a kayak before Scunny convinced him to take the 2009 trek.
“I had never been a paddler at all,” he said. “To get ready we paddled pretty much all summer, three days a week at minimum, using some long paddles and some short paddles. You’ve got to get some long paddles in because you need to get your back and your legs ready for the pain of 10 hours in a kayak.”
Last year the route followed McCusker’s original plan, running from Baltimore to Ocean City. This year organizers flipped the script and cast off near Ocean City.
“We had aggressive goals the first day,” Powell said. “When I looked out at the water and the tides in the morning, we’re exactly where I thought we’d be. The whole thing is you don’t know – sometimes you can go six miles an hour and (Tuesday) we had one hour where we all paddled really hard and we went less than two miles.”
Powell said the trip was still very much on track.
“It’s going to take us two full days to get all the way up the Delaware Bay, so our goal is to be up to Delaware City or through the C and D canal two days from now,” he said. “We’re looking good to make our goals.”
The inaugural Memorial Paddle raised nearly $50,000. This year the event has already raised more than $60,000 for Believe In Tomorrow.
“Believe In Tomorrow is a leader in hospital and respite housing for critically ill children and their families,” Sachs said. “We have a hospital housing program in Baltimore where we’re the number one provider of overnight housing for families of children at Hopkins. If a child is getting seen for various reasons and they’re coming from out of state or just can’t foot the bill for a hotel, we come in and we provide housing for a night, a couple nights, up to several months at a time, sometimes even a year.”
The nonprofit also offers respite housing, with several free vacation properties in Ocean City as well as Fenwick Island, Western Maryland and Asheville, N.C. available to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.
“The fundraising goes toward maintaining these seven different properties year-round, keeping the lights on and making it a safe-haven for these families who are going through an incredible amount of stress,” said Sachs.
The 2014 fundraising goal is $100,000.
“This year is going real well financially,” Powell said. “We still have one more fundraiser when we get home, and hopefully it will do well for us.”
“We’re already passed last year’s goal, and we’ve added two more paddlers this year,” Mislan said. “Last year we did really well and people were talking about it. This year when we decided to do it again people were already pumped to get onboard and help us out.”
On the evening before they cast off the group were able to tour and stay in one of the Believe In Tomorrow Houses in Ocean City.
“It was pretty rewarding to see that,” Powell said. “This whole thing is just about a little service to others. I’m blessed with some healthy children, so it makes it very easy to support a charity like this. It’s pretty gratifying seeing what your efforts do. These families show up in Baltimore – they don’t know a soul and they’re going to be here for months. All their focus is on getting their kid well.”
“To me this event is just a great way to give back to the community and remember my friend,” said Mislan. “I’ve always done little charitable things, but Scunny was the one guy that really taught me that if you’re in the position to do good you have to take advantage of that.”
Believe In Tomorrow is actively seeking volunteers in the Ocean City and Baltimore area. To donate, visit www.believeintomorrow.org or send a check to Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation, 6601 Frederick Road, Baltimore, Md. 21228.