Josh on his board

Paddling 22 miles for Plant With Purpose

22 miles on a paddleboard is no easy feat!

Will Allen and Emily Bark will be paddling 22 miles from Catalina to Palos Verdes to support Plant With Purpose this month! They have chosen to raise money to plant trees in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of Plant With Purpose’s newer countries where communities are working on restoring a watershed on the side of a mountain and trees are a critical part of that. As the people in the Congo plant trees, they also learn to grow their food more effectively, store water so it is safer and start businesses through savings groups where communities are working on restoring a watershed on the side of a mountain and trees are a critical part of that.

The following interview was collected by Cathi Lundy, one of our long-serving board members. She and her husband learned about Plant With Purpose in its first year, 1984, and have been enthusiastic supporters ever since. 

Will and Emily, how did you first meet?

Emily: Will and I met in high school and started surfing and paddling together, we’ve known each other for about 4 years now. What made you decide to do this project together?

Will: We decided to do this project at the beginning of summer when we went for a paddle one day. We thought, wouldn’t it be cool to do a fundraiser channel crossing? This is our first fundraiser project together, but I have gone on a fundraiser paddle with the Bark family before. They are one of the best families I have met, servant hearts and very genuine people.

Emily: Will and I both wanted to do something for others with our summers, and he asked me if I would want to do a charity paddle from Catalina to the mainland. He told me about Plant with Purpose. I looked it up and was so stoked to read about what Plant With Purpose is doing around the world and we thought it would be a great organization to raise money for.

Emily on her paddleboard
Emily on her paddleboard

What is it about PWP that inspires you to do these special events for it?

Emily: The environment has been big on both of our hearts, and since we spend so much time in the ocean and in God’s creation, we want to make sure we are taking care of it. As stewards of God’s creation, we are supposed to care for each other and the Earth. Seeing how Plant With Purpose works towards spiritual renewal as well as working to combat both poverty and deforestation is very inspiring and we’re grateful for the opportunity to be able to help out as much as we can.

Will: Plant With Purpose is absolutely amazing and clearly led by the spirit. The work they do empowers people all over to experience new growth spiritually, physically, and environmentally. They aid in all areas of people’s needs and are backed by so many amazing people in the community. Plant With Purpose is so rad!

How long have you both been paddle boarding?

Emily: My dad taught me how to paddle as soon as I could swim! I did my first paddle race in third grade and have loved it ever since.

Will: Emily took me paddling sophomore year of high school, so it’s been 4 years of prone paddling! The first time I went, I soon realized how tricky the sport is because balance and endurance is the key. It’s a very good workout and a surreal time on the water. Thanks Emily, for your patience and training me.

Will this be your longest crossing?

Emily: This will be my fifth time paddling the Catalina Channel. I haven’t done a crossing in about 4 years so this won’t be my longest paddle. However, since I haven’t paddled this far in a few years, it will feel like it.

Will: This will be my third time crossing the channel and it has all been the same, 22 miles. In the future we hope to go on a longer trek!

Will and Emily will be paddleboarding to support communities in the Congo
Will and Emily will be paddleboarding to support communities in the Congo

Have you done anything like this before?

Emily: A few years ago a big group of family and friends did this Catalina crossing twice with a marathon in between to raise awareness for epilepsy. This event, Callie’s Cause, was an incredible experience and a great way to support Callie’s family and Callie.

Will, this is your second project for Plant With Purpose! Please share a little about your first project: how old you were, why you did it and exactly how you raised the money.

Will: When I was a wee Grom (Grom means young surfer) at 10 years old, my mom asked me to do a fundraiser for my 5th grade year. I was looking around for a charity and then my mom told me to talk to you, Mrs. Lundy (one of the kindest moms in my life) and you told us about Plant With Purpose. I was so psyched on the program. What caught my eye was the fact that $1 equals 1 tree in the program!! That’s insane. So I decided to get to work in my neighborhood. The country I chose to help was Haiti. I went door to door with a big ol’ plastic bag asking for spare change and dollars. Everyone was incredibly generous in aiding the Plant With Purpose cause.

At the end of it all I raised $100 which was 100 trees. The Lundys helped my family and I attend a service where I could give the funds to the Plant With Purpose director from Haiti. I was so nervous to walk on stage to hand the funds to the director, Guy Paraison, but when I got up there and was in this man’s genuine presence, I felt safe. Now looking back, that was the Lord in this man’s heart. He shook my hand and I gave him the massive bag of change. This was honestly one of the most nerve-racking experiences!

What are your goals and dreams for this project?

Emily: We hope to raise $5000 for Plant With Purpose! We also are hoping to raise awareness for Plant With Purpose and get people excited about helping the planet and others. We’re so humbled and blessed to be doing this paddle and are excited to see how He works.

Will: After watching the Kakumba video and reading on the Plant With Purpose website about the DRC, I was incredibly moved to see these people rejoicing in the Lord and intuitively farming. Their passion and “stoke” gave me hope to continue through tough trials. The Congolese people have faced severe hardships yet the courageously forge ahead. I hope the fundraiser can bring 5,000 trees to the Congo and in turn bringing new birth/growth. With more areas conducive to farming and living, all the more hope follows! Eventually it would be neat to visit the Congo with the Plant With Purpose team to experience renewal with all the awesome locals.

We will be following Will and Emily closely on social media! To join us, follow us @plantwpurpose and we’ll plant a tree!

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