6th Annual Float for Life
It's a good idea to wear a few extra layers of clothing to fight off the cold.
"A lot of people think we are crazy for doing it in December, says Ray Novak.
And it sounds crazy at first. Ride the White River all the way from north Arkansas to the Mississippi river, a trip of about 420 miles, in a john boat.
Rob Banasaik explains, "We were sitting around one evening just shooting the bull and Sonny came up with the idea. He said that one day before he passed away he wanted to go from Bull Shoals Dam all the way to the Mississippi River. And me and Ray, we kind of just agreed with him never thinking it would happen. And sure enough it wasn't very long after we agreed that he planned it.
Hospice of the Ozarks helped Sonny Grueber's wife Sheila in her final days.
Sonny decided the trip would make a good fundraiser for the organization
Their traditional December fourth departure marks the day of Sheila's death.
Banasaik says, "A lot of people think this is tough. I think hospice is doing a tougher job than us."
The floaters are all river guides from the Mountain Home area, where the White is more of a trout stream than it in eastern Arkansas.
For much of the trip the ride is rough at the very least, and punctuated with pockets of cold air.
Sonny Grueber died himself on Christmas day 2007. Ray Novak is one of the original floaters helping keep the tradition going.
Novak says, "He was one of the very few people that's been down the river. We've known a few more. But he was real proud of using the bragging rights on he goes all the way down the river."
A road crew follows the floaters. The night before they camped in the Des Arc city park. By Clarendon the boats needed gas, and the floaters a hot meal.
This is the sixth year they've made the trip. Over time the Float for Life has raised more than 100 thousand dollars for Hospice of the Ozarks.
And though conditions a rarely good, and more often miserable, they enjoy their trip down the river, and the warmth of knowing they're doing a little good at the same time.
Rob Banasaik says, "Basically it all comes from the heart. I mean it makes all of our hearts real warm and comfortable knowing that we're able to do something to help somebody else. That's our goal. We just want to be able to help somebody else."
Friday the folks at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge 3183 in Midway are holding a fish fry to welcome the floaters home.
All the proceeds from the event go to Hospice of the Ozarks.