Canton man inspired to create more opportunities for wounded soldiers

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The first kayak was made over 4,000 years ago and was made of animal hide and whale bones.

CANTON, N.Y. (WWTI) — A Canton native was inspired to provide more resources for wounded soldiers after seeing first hand the lack of opportunities for those who dedicate their lives for our country.

Mark McKenna from Canton is a Fort Drum Civil Engineer, which put him in a position to observe a wounded soldier who was having a difficult time accessing exercise equipment in a gym on Fort Drum. It was this experience that made him recognize the need to provide wounded soldiers and athletes with an opportunity to continue to be physical and compete in competitive athletic activities.

As a result the longtime hockey coach founded the Mountain Warrior Sled Hockey team in 2011 to do what he could to increase these opportunities. Now McKenna is leading fundraising efforts to help the Canton Recreation Department purchase an ADA Canoe and Kayak Launch that would be located at Taylor Park. The launch would allow greater access to the scenic waters of the Grasse River.

In honor of the effort, members of the Mountain Warrior Sled Hockey team which is based out of Fort Drum Army Base, enjoyed a morning out on the water where the launch is supposed to be installed. Tom Lazore of Massena and Allen Fifield of Ogdensburg were a part of the trip that took place on September 11 and tested out a set of kayaks outrigged with stabilizers. The day was especially special to Lazore who was deployed to Afghanistan shortly after the attacks on 9/11.

Canton Recreation Director Meghan Richardson expressed her gratitude for McKenna’s efforts.

“This is the first of many steps to increase accessibility to all of our recreation facilities. The launch will not only improve access for our disabled community, but for all individuals who need assistance getting in or out of a canoe or kayak,” Richardson said. “Having the support of Mark and his team is an invaluable resource as we strive to implement the best methods for improving access to recreation programs and facilities.”

So far the funding efforts have received a $10,000 contribution from Peter Wyckoff and his family and a $5,000 contribution from Brookfield Renewable Energy. The public can contribute to the project by sending a check to the Village of Canton at 60 Main Street with the memo of “ADA Boat Launch”.

If preparation stays on schedule the launch will be commemorated at the 60th Canton Canoe Weekend on May 7 and 8 which is held annually at Taylor Park.

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